Tips for Dealing with Conflict

angry-woman.jpgOur ability, as business leaders, to manage conflict can’t be overstated. If you’ve never dealt with conflict in a professional environment…well, you live a blessed life.

Most of us, however, have almost certainly facilitated a meeting or training course with some angry person sitting there with a sour look on his or her face while leaning back in his or her seat with their arms crossed.  Yeah, you know who I’m talking about, don’t you?

Let Them Vent

In some cases, the best thing you can do is allow time for the unhappy soul to vent. Get all the emotions on the table.

With this said, here are some tips you can employ during this emotionally charged time.

  • Take charge. Let it be known that you are in control of the scene and that there will order to the venting process. If chaos results it’s game over. They win. You lose.
  • Stay calm. It’s easy to get emotional yourself. Don’t. You are in control of the scene, remember?
  • Stay neutral. Never agree or disagree with the venting people. Just listen.
  • Listen. It’s worth repeating (especially for us fellows)… really listen to the person.
  • Use a flip chart. Document key points and concerns on a flip chart for all to see and to ensure you have accurately captured their feelings.
  • Time bound. Don’t let the venting go on too long… lest it becomes whining.  Allow the person(s) to speak their mind(s) and then move to the next step… resolving the issue.

Resolve the Issue

Now that all the emotions are on the table it’s time to resolve the conflict. Here are the most common methods we, as facilitators, have at our disposal.

  • Avoid it. If the resistance is not too serious (i.e. someone wants to meet in the break room instead of the conference room) you can choose to just avoid it. Be warned, you should only choose this method if you can be certain the negative person’s attitude will not poison the other people involved.
  • Accommodate them. This may involve people giving into other’s views or simply asking folks to get along (i.e. act like grown-ups).
  • Compromise. Find a middle ground all parties can agree to.
  • Compete. This means you impose your will on others and they do what you want them to. If the room is on fire and people will die if you don’t take action this is the style to use. If the room is not on fire and people’s lives aren’t in danger I strongly recommend you pass on this approach.
  • Collaborate. Deal with the conflict head on. Don’t run from it. Surface the issues and resolve them systematically. Simple tools like a force field analysis can work wonders, especially when everyone openly communicates their side of the story.

Collaborating is more than likely your best bet. This isn’t to say the others don’t have their place as well. But anytime you are able to get people working together to solve a problem, any problem, half the battle has already been won.

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1 Comment

  1. tonyj

    April 27, 2008 - 1:13 pm

    You mention some very important points here – great post! Leaders quite simply need to know how to lead – easier said then done. Sometimes finding that balance between what needs to get done and getting it done hits a variety of snags along the way. Sometimes a remedy may require a bit training. A bit of training can go a long way, but it amazing how companies won’t take the time to apply a bit of training. With that in mind there’s an interesting site regarding this topic… that I’ve used to help keep my team in line. It may be in your interest… http://www.statamatrix.com/