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Conflict Management: Three mindsets you can adopt

Published: Sep 23, 2016
Conflict Management: Three mindsets you can adopt

By Impraise blog

Conflict takes many forms in an organization. Your team can dispute how the work should be done, how resources should be allocated, and how revenues should be redistributed. Conflict, by its very nature, is a critical process around an idea or a solution. People hold different perspectives and have various motives; therefore, conflict exists. The existence of conflict can be very healthy for your team’s effectiveness. When a conflict arises, it brings opportunities to synthesize diverse perspectives, to test out solutions, and to benefit from collective intelligence. Consequently, avoiding conflicts can potentially cost companies valuable innovations.

Therefore, conflict management is and has always been an important skill that managers need to master in order to run their business smoothly. Here are three mindsets one can adopt to improve their conflict solving skills.

Think Empathically

It is crucial to empathize with your employees’ ideas and situation. A great leader cares about the opinion of each and every employee.

When a conflict is overheated, you need to bring the emotion down to a controllable level. Let people vent out their frustration. Blow off steam. If someone shouts, let them be. You should listen carefully and nod emphatically. If possible, try to facilitate active listening between disputing parties. It will be very helpful. Attentive listening can gain you a better understanding of their standpoints. Be aware of the ecosystem within your company: how each department works together and relies on each other.

Think Transparently

Put all the cards on the table. Make sure that everyone is on the same page. Many conflicts arise from a lack of information, which leads to misunderstanding.

Get more information by asking open-ended questions, for example: “How do you think the customer will use this feature?” instead of “Will they use this feature?” or “Is it worth spending resources in developing this new functionality?” Verifying questions help you gather more information and avoid making assumptions. Without explaining yourself and justifying with examples, assumptions can come across as extremely offensive, and can trigger people to act angrily to defend themselves. That will do nothing good for your conflict resolution.

Be clear about a conflict’s characteristics as well. Is it a personal matter or an institutional issue? You can then decide on a suitable course of action.

Stay Focused

Focus on ideas, not their owners. Always steer conversations away from personal attacks. A useful technique is to use hypotheses. A hypothetical contradiction is more likely to get one to imagine a different scenario rather than to concentrate on feelings of being disapproved or even humiliated. “I hear your concern about adding the right feature to increase sales. If we could get the right one…what would the product be like?”

It is essential to keep everyone focused on the company’s common goals. Communicate these goals clearly and specifically. A solution that is most likely to bring the organization closer to its goals is unarguably more valuable than one that only benefits a team or an individual.

If it seems impossible to reach a consensus, you can shift the focus on a procedure to move forward. Ask your employees how they want to move forward. Involve them in the decision making process, and encourage them to look at the bigger picture.

However, there will be a time when you will have to let go. No matter how skillful you are, you won’t be able to solve a conflict immediately. When emotional level is out of control, you should consider taking some time off. Just walk away and get back to it when the heat has (hopefully) gone down.

Conflict is critical to team effectiveness, but damaging when left unsolved. An effective leader sees conflict resolution as an opportunity to grow for the business and to learn about his or her own leadership maturity. Be empathetic, be transparent and stay focused so you can lead your people through adverse circumstances.

3 Tips to take away:

  1. Think empathically: Listen actively and put yourself into others’ position

  2. Think transparently: Make necessary information available to all parties involved, and make decisions upon facts

  3. Stay focused: Focus on the ideas, not its owners; prioritize solutions benefiting the common goals.