By Leon Gettler
Conflict situations are inevitable in every work-place. Put people with different goals, agendas and ways of working together, and the sparks fly. Sometimes however conflict in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, if it’s appropriately handled and resolved. Being exposed to different points of view can lead to personal growth. By encouraging people to openly talk about their different views and disagreements in a calm and structured way, managers can develop a culture of positive conflict awareness so that new ideas and fresh approaches to work are generated and explored. In such an environment, vigorous discussion and debate takes place instead of people being at each other’s throats.
The skill for managers is to turn these conflict situations into a more positive way of managing differences. To do that, they have to first defuse any hostility.
The people at Stanislaw Consulting say managers should bring the parties together in a private, calm and non-antagonistic environment and set guidelines for the discussion. These ground rules should cover the basics: one person speaks at a time, everyone makes a commitment to listen to each other, talk directly to the person with whom there are concerns and not involve others and finally, attack the issues and not the people.
They should ask everyone to state their issues, listen with empathy and make sure there is clarification when things are misinterpreted, get agreement from everyone on what the issues are, encourage participants to generate solutions in an open brain-storming session and at the end, have each party summarise the outcomes and insights gained from the process.
Mike Myatt at Forbes says the first thing managers need to do is define acceptable and unacceptable behaviours. They should also seek out areas of potential conflict and proactively intervene in a just and decisive fashion. That will short-circuit things and stop the conflict from happening. It’s also important, he says, to understand the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) factor. You need to be across other’s motivations prior to weighing in. The way to avoid conflict is to help those around you achieve their objectives. Pick your battles and only weigh in when it’s important. And finally, see it as an opportunity. Divergent positions addressed properly can stimulate innovation and learning in ways like minds can’t even imagine.
Other specialists advise managers to listen with open ears and make sure everyone understands what has just been said, identify the ideal end result and work back from there and figure out what can realistically be done to achieve everyone’s goals.
Business Management Daily tells managers to let people tell their stories and get things off their chest. They need to get everyone focused on the big picture and its implications so that they’re not just consumed in the minutiae or being swayed by office politics.
Organisational psychologist Dr David Javitch at entrepreneur.com says managers should find common ground as the foundation that will enable them to bridge the gap that separates the parties involved. Dr Javitch said managers should encourage compromise and work through all the negative feelings that have been raised to ensure that they won’t happen again.