Remaining Neutral While Helping Others Overcome Conflict
If you find yourself leading a team of employees who consistently agree on every issue, there’s a strong chance a few of those employees are unnecessary. Conflict isn’t just an inevitable hassle or a simple cost of doing business in the real world; it’s an essential aspect of growth, both in business and in life. Gaining an accurate picture of a situation means reconciling multiple and often conflicting perspectives. Those who are ready to face the challenges of leadership must be willing and able to accept conflict and keep a cool head while encouraging employees to navigate their differences. Here are a few strategies that can help.
- Act as an intelligent translator. If employees aren’t expressing themselves clearly and your position allows you to see the communication obstacles that lie between them, take action to remove those obstacles. Clarify the points that each side is struggling to present. Stay tactful, clear, and diplomatic.
- Help employees overcome their unconscious biases, and help them compartmentalize their feelings. If two employees are arguing about the issue at hand, but they’re also dealing with a subtext carried over from a previous argument or an issue happening outside of the workplace, help them recognize and counteract this.
- Don’t rush them. Conflict is uncomfortable, and in our haste to bring the drama to an end, we often push employees to accept weak compromises or pretend to agree before both sides have had a chance to be heard. Your employees are both adults, and there’s no reason they should cut an argument short or make peace artificially. Allow them to clear the air, just encourage fairness and listening skills as you do so.
- Keep them focused. While it’s important not to rush a conclusion, don’t let an argument go on too long or sprawl into areas outside of the central concern. Establish clear goals for the discussion and keep both participants on track.
I will discuss more on this topic in my class at Manhattan College on October 24, 2012.
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