Defusion Strategies for Managing Conflict
Many studies dating back decades have found that managers spend a good deal of their time managing conflict in the workplace. One of the most recent research studies into workplace conflict, conducted by Accountemps, found that managers spend six hours each week managing conflicts between employees.
Clearly, managers must employ effective conflict management strategies to reduce destructive conflict and free their time for more constructive management tasks. This article discusses how managers can do this.
Be a Facilitator of Conflict Resolution
The job of a manager is to facilitate a resolution to conflict, not impose it. You cannot dictate peace, but must foster it. This means that you must create an environment in which those in conflict can talk to each other, openly and honestly. The manager is a mediator and facilitator of conflict resolution.
Often, conflict develops into poor behavior – shouting, swearing and obstructiveness, for example. It is essential that a manager does not fall into this trap. Instead, you must be an example of the behaviors you expect from your people.
Watch how people behave and rationalize by removing your feelings from the equation. If behavior is unacceptable, a break can sometimes help to defuse the situation before you revisit the conflict.
Act with Empathy
Acknowledge your employees’ feelings as they explain their opinions and views and their sense of the reason for conflict. Show your appreciation, acknowledge their contribution, and apologize for the feelings that they are having. Remember that cultural and generational differences affect people’s perceptions.
(Read our articles ‘Bridging the Gao in a Multigenerational workplace’ and ‘Cross-cultural management challenges and how to face them’.)
Look for Common Ground
As you discover how people are feeling and why, look for common ground on which you can build agreement. By focusing on these, you raise their importance above the source of conflict, and this helps to defuse disputes.
Clarify the Conflict before Assessing Needs
It is crucial that you understand the nature of the conflict. People’s emotions can cause them to miscommunicate their issues and concerns. Listen to what is being said, then repeat back to clarify positions.
Remember, too, that you must ask appropriate questions to get to the bottom of the issue as you dive deeper than shallow emotions. It is essential to focus on the facts to move forward to a resolution that will tackle root causes.
Develop a Solution and Strategy Together
Most people do not want conflict to continue. They would prefer to work in a collaborative and harmonious workplace. They want to come to a resolution.
When determining a solution and strategy to bring conflict to a close, do so with the parties in conflict. Work with them to develop a strategy that they have helped to create. People don’t destroy what they create.
Observe progress, provide feedback, and ensure that the affected parties stick to the strategy they have agreed.
Remember, too, to document everything that happened and the approach you took – doing so is good practice in case of repeat conflict, and also useful should it become an issue that must be taken to disciplinary measures.
Conflict management strategies are among the most important skills for managers and leaders to develop. To learn how Forward Focus facilitates better conflict management by your leaders and managers, contact us today.