Dos and don’ts of dealing with conflict at work

Here are some guidelines to follow to stop tension from turning into chaos.

How a leader handles conflict says a lot about his/her leadership style and the values they bring to the table. These situations require empathy, courage, and the ability to get comfortable with confrontation. Here are some tips to help you deal with conflict resolution at work.

Do keep an open mind
While most people come into a conflict with preconceived notions and opinions, a good leader adopts a mindset of inquiry. He/she asks open-ended questions and listens carefully to what the other party has to say. Leaders should seek to understand all aspects of situation rather than coming in all guns blazing and enforcing their own points of view. Don’t discount the other person’s perspectives; they are part of their situational truth. So keep an open mind even if all the evidence seems very clear. As a leader it’s your responsibility to hear all sides impartially.

Do be consistent
Leaders cannot play favourites and having different rules for different sets of people. You have to showcase a consistent approach to how you resolve conflicts within the team. Employees will notice it your attitudes towards a specific set is different. It will prompt them to think you’re showing favouritism. This in turn will erode the trust you have built with them. So analyse your leadership approach and ensure you adopt the same behaviour with all your employees.

Do manage your emotions
This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s often forgotten in the heat of the moment. Good leaders know how to read/understand their emotions and are therefore mindful of the way they impact those around them. These skills come in especially handy during a conflict situation. Treat the person with respect; avoid getting so wound up in your emotional response that you disregard the person’s dignity.

Don’t rush to fill in silences
In an uncomfortable conversation silences can be unnerving and very uncomfortable. Often our first reaction is to rush in and fill it. While it might seem like you’re saving the situation, you are not. Learn for get comfortable with the silences because they are pauses in the conversation that give people time to understand what has been said and let the message sink in. Also, by rushing in your might come across as overbearing and pushy. Many people take their time to think before they speak. So give the other person time to think, re-evaluate and also calm down. It also shows that you are comfortable having this conversation and are interesting in spending time to understand and resolve the situation.

Don’t give ultimatums
It can be tempting to assert your authority and resolve a conflict through intimidation. This shows that you believe the fault lies with the other person and that they are the ones who need to change. It’s displays arrogance and a belief that threats, manipulation, and intimidation are okay in business. All strategies a good leader should steer clear off. Rather than perceiving the other person as a problem or a threat, think of it as an opportunity to streamline operations, and increase efficiency and productivity. It is a chance for you to develop a resource that you can leverage. Avoid alienating employees with high-handed behaviour and instead take a step back, work to understand the situation and focus on what truly matters.

Photograph: Prostooleh – 

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