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How To Turn Conflict Into Innovation

“There is tension between me and a co-worker.”

A business thrives when it is open to different ideas to innovate and move forward. But what if different opinions result in tension and conflict? What are the ensuing issues for both employees and the business? What conflict resolution strategies can a manager employ effectively and quickly to limit ongoing damage?

How does conflict occur in the workplace?

Whenever co-workers spend extended periods of time together, conflict is almost inevitable. People have different views and opinions, and different ideas on how things can be done most efficiently and effectively. Their comprehension levels are different (If you’ve ever played the telephone game, you’ll understand that even the simplest message can become twisted out of all recognition in just a few steps).

In the workplace, issues of conflict can become magnified. The diversity of ideas and opinions, utilized correctly, is a driving force behind effective innovation and creativity – you don’t want to lose that. Harnessing it and empowering it to reach its full potential necessitates managers to have conflict resolution skills.

What if conflict is not controlled?

Without conflict resolution, workplace tensions can lead to problems for individual employees, managers, and the business. With no resolution, those involved become frustrated and this leads to stress. Left unresolved, individuals could:

  • Become lethargic toward work
  • Become increasingly absent or late for work
  • Find their concentration levels and attention to detail falling rapidly
  • Become aggressive toward their co-workers

The result for the business is: a loss of productivity; a drop in morale; increased employee turnover; higher costs; and a disgruntled workforce that functions poorly.

Do you want your business to experience long-term damage because your managers haven’t adopted effective conflict resolution strategies?

Conflict doesn’t have to be a bad thing

When conflict is left unmanaged and unanswered, it can destroy an organization. However, with the correct conflict management skills, a manager can use conflict to advance his team and their productivity.

Different opinions on how to best implement a new piece of software into a sales solution are needed to arrive at best solution. Yet when such conversations are held, they are rarely seen as points of conflict: they are managed by context and compromise.

Without conflict, it is unlikely that an organization will improve in all it does. Conflict, therefore, should be seen as an opportunity to improve and not as a route to inevitable disaster.

Employing conflict resolution skills

Conflict resolution is a key executive skill, and applies equally when the conflict lies between the leader and a co-worker as it does when the tension is between two or more co-workers.

Do you want your executives and managers to employ conflict resolution skills that will keep their team on track and working together to a collective goal?

There are several ways in which conflict resolution may be executed. These conflict resolution strategies include:

  • Forcing, where the manager pursues their route despite objections. Though this strategy may be necessary on occasion and deliver fast results, it can also negatively affect working relationships and leaves no room to take advantage of the other party’s great ideas.
  • Collaborating, where the final solution gains the commitment of all parties and all concerns are taken into consideration. These conflict management skills can lead to a better collaboration in the future. However, while the real problem will have been solved, such a conflict resolution style can take more effort and time.
  • Compromising, where a mutually acceptable solution is sought and all parties operate on a ‘give-and-take’ basis. These conflict management skills are often used when a temporary solution is needed. This lowers the tension levels and makes it easier for a permanent solution to be found. However, it could result in the parties to the conflict being left unsatisfied, requiring controlled management to make certain that agreements reached are kept.

These are a few of the conflict resolution skills that leaders need in their toolbox. Different conflict situations require the employment of different resolution strategies. If you have identified a team that is working below par, or with individuals always in dispute, then it’s likely that the manager is limited in his conflict resolution skills and needs assistance.

Learning to be a calming influence during conflict

A key conflict management skill is the ability to create a calm work environment. Resolutions to conflict and problems require a calm and collective atmosphere; when people are in conflict, mistrusting each other, the manager has little opportunity to find a resolution.

The best calming skill a leader can employ during a conflict with a co-worker (although this also often applies to a conflict between two or more members of the team) is to identify and articulate his or her contribution to the issue. Taking such route of accountability gains trust, encourages respect, and makes people sit up and listen. A simple sentence such as any of the following will have a calming influence on conflict:

  • ‘I see that I contributed to the confusion by not being clear about the priorities.’
  • ‘I feel that this problem might have been avoided if I’d have set up a meeting to talk about the issues in advance.’
  • ‘In the future,  I’ll give more consideration to how my decision will impact you.’
  • ‘I will take the time in the future to document our planning decisions.’

What conflict resolution strategies do your managers employ?

Do they have the conflict resolution skills to identify and take advantage of the opportunities that conflicts present?

Take accountability and improve conflict resolution skills

Business goals are more easily achieved by harmonious teams, and yet innovation and creation rely on conflict. This is why good conflict resolution skills and the employment of effective conflict resolution strategies are so important. Leaders who can manage conflict in any situation benefit from a more focused and goal-oriented team.

Conflict Management is a free downloadable tool from Forward Focus that will help managers to take accountability and improve their conflict resolution skills. Once you’ve downloaded Conflict Management, Forward Focus will follow up with further conflict resolution strategies and tips, helping leaders harness the real power of their team and empower a collective effort toward objectives.

The benefits of leaders equipped with great conflict resolution skills – to a business and its people – are clear. Sign up for Conflict Management today, and help your leaders to transform your workplace. 

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