Ironically, conflict is seen by most as a negative word. In fact, the word itself causes a level of anxiety for most. Just yesterday I heard another manager state proudly, “I don’t like conflict.” My first reaction was, “Well who does?”, and quickly realized I was only reacting to her negative tone around the subject, not the content. The fact is, I thrive on healthy conflict; the introduction of new perspectives and differing opinions that push the envelope of your own beliefs. I must admit though, the delivery matters, in my opinion it should be a mutually valuable exchange.
For managers, conflict is just part of the job. It is inherent any time an item needs to be addressed with an employee. Seeing eye-to-eye is atypical. But beware, approaching conflict incorrectly can damage morale, lower productivity, and create hostility. The worst by-product is ill will that may spread rampantly throughout your operation; breaking down your entire culture and organizational health. That is why conflict must be dealt with through actual conflict management.
When handled correctly, conflict brings about opportunities for learning, evolution and growth for everyone. I’m not saying candy coat the issue so it’s easier to swallow. Just make sure you diffuse it naturally by taking the emotion out of it and focusing on the facts. Many take the tact of tearing someone down as they feel it is the only way to make sure they can see that their point is hitting its mark. This isn’t how you will gain an employee’s engagement, nor is falsely building someone up either. As a manager, you are a role model. How you handle conflict sets the stage for how everyone else will interact in similar situations.
So conflict is not so gently knocking at your door. What do you do?
Turning the other cheek—is not even an option. Face it head on.
Time is of the essence—if employees are not meeting expectations, take control of the situation immediately.
Honesty is the best policy—especially when it comes to conflict. Be straightforward.
Pick your battles—even using the term “battle” is incorrect and should be wiped from your vocabulary. Being inconsistent in your reactions to problems is just plain confusing.
Connect through collaboration—people who are part of the solution become less of the problem. Conflict takes two and so does true resolution.
There is a process you can impart to most anything when it comes to good management practices. For conflict, there are many from which to choose. As a fan of alliteration, I am sharing this one:
• Assess the situation
• Acknowledge all its parts
• Attitude positively set on growth
• Action to resolve the issue
• Analysis of the whole picture to detour it from happening again
If the mere mention of conflict makes your hair stand on end then work hard to change your mind set. Take a moment to understand whether this is an issue with your ability to deal with conflict and if that fear comes from a lack of skill or psychology. This internal conflict is worth addressing, using the tools above, to gain insight. You’ll be a better manager for it. Weigh in on your best policies for conflict management by tweeting us @BetterManagers #conflict.
By, Shiloh Kelly, Vice President of Marketing, Red Book Solutions | 20 years Cross Industry Experience | Corporate Marketing and National Sustainability Lead, BlueLinx |Chief Strategic and Creative Officer, Limelight Advertising | Strategic Marketing Manager, Vail Resorts