It is generally accepted that conflicts in a team are unpleasant and dangerous as they create an aggressive environment and spoil the atmosphere. Nevertheless, this only happens when the group doesn’t adopt healthy strategies to deal with tensions and, most importantly, to derive benefits from them. If conflict situations instead of being ignored are closely watched, then you have an excellent chance to uncover a failure in the system, and take appropriate measures in time.
The Nature of the Team Conflict
The conflict between the team members is no different from any other conflict. The important point to remember is that positions don’t play a big role in defining rightness and they certainly don’t give privileges to the participants. Everyone should have the right to voice their opinion regardless of rank, gender, or race. Unfortunately, some companies do not adhere to this basic rule, but rather transfer more authority to a few key people. No doubt, such an uneven system will gradually bend and sooner or later will fail. Professional federal resume writers from WriteMyResumes who are dab hands in crafting CVs know firsthand that conflicts in the team are among the major reasons for applicants to relocate.
Contrary, the universal freedom of speech, shared responsibility for everybody, the equal value of the participants will contribute to the flexibility and high amortization of the system. Therefore, it is important to remember that any work problem, being it the conflict or crisis, should be resolved identically, regardless of whether the leader is involved or not. The only difference is that often it is the executive manager who will take on the role of the mediator in such cases.
5 Major Rules to Handle Any Conflict
1. Don’t avoid conflicts
It would be useful to start seeing a conflict as an opportunity for a couple of reasons. First of all, the process of getting out of the conflict will always culminate in the optimization of the company’s working processes. Secondly, this is a chance for the team’s attunement and the opportunity to get stronger thanks to a new common challenge. It is worth noting that a conflict is the final stage of a simple misunderstanding, contradiction, or inconsistency. Therefore, if you learn to identify and avert conflicts in the early stages, then your staff will get into the pointless war of words at the workplace less often. By the way, it is in the role of a leader to keep a finger on the pulse and mark potential pre-conflict or conflict situations. In general, it is necessary to create a transparent atmosphere in the team, motivate and train employees to talk about problems out loud, lead by example, as well as methodically interview the team using special questionnaires.
2. Meet challenges on the ground
Any conflict in the team should be resolved in the most healthy way meaning with an individual conversation. You should deal with it here and now either guided by the opinion of the majority or by using the ethical principles of Teal organizations – trust and responsibility. Here is a good practical example: two employees disagree over the solution to a problem, then the manager can present one of the disputers with implementing his solution while making sure that he is aware of all the limitations and risks. Alternatively, if the conflict is serious, and its degree rises, you should isolate the participants from the general process and talk to them in private. It is better to characterize such a conversation neutrally: not as a “debriefing”, but as a “meeting.” For example, “Let’s discuss this issue separately, in a more relaxed atmosphere, after lunch?”
3. Come up with the solution in advance
So, the conflict took place and you are going to have to talk with the workers at odds. There are two opinions on when is the best time to get started. The first is to lead the conversation amid an argument when the participants are still distressed. This option assumes that emotions give access to a real root of the problem, which can be hidden under rationality and logic the next day. On the flip side, such a dialogue will be more of a dispute, making it more difficult to regulate. Besides, it is a Herculean task to listen to common sense while being steamed up. The second option is to let the participants cool down and sort this out a few hours later. In a calm state of mind, we get more rational, thus we can see an alternative point of view without trouble. The negative sides here are the unpleasant expectation of the dispute round 2, a possible increase in negativity, excessive rationalization. Therefore, it is better to choose the golden mean – set up a meet in half an hour or an hour.
The best you can do in advance is:
- Find a mediator – a neutral person who doesn’t support either side. Most often, this position is taken by HR. Ideally, this person should be proficient in techniques of conflict management and deriving useful conclusions from them.
- Ask the participants individually – let them share their opinions short and sweet on what has happened and how they see a way out of the situation. Here, it is important not to take either side, not to give green light to aggression and insults. The answer: “Ok, thanks, I hear you” – will be enough. You should understand the primary problem and why the participants need to insist on their position.
- Multiple solutions – the mediator will try to find several solutions, and best of all – an ideal solution for both parties, in case of a dead-end.
4. Create explicit rules for the dialogue
In the beginning, it is of high priority to outline the basic rules of the conversation. You can come up with your ideas, but here’s a couple of tried and tested tips:
- Pay no attention to the roles and speak like ordinary people – if we solve problems from different (and also hierarchically unequal) sides, then consensus is unlikely to be reached. Contrary, when we communicate at similar levels, then the chances of solving the problem increase.
- Speak from your position – this means that we construct sentences like: “To me, it seems to be wrong”, “I am worried that”, “I hate that.”
- Speak openly and directly – to be honest means to solve a real problem, not a superficial one. This is useful for the company as well since old unresolved conflicts, grievances, and failures can surface.
- Keep political correctness on
- Come out of a passive, but out of an active position – we are looking for a solution, not defending ourselves or proving our rights.
The next step is to identify the problem that has arisen. It should be discussed as a general team-related problem, not a fistfight between two colleagues. Therefore, in the process, it is better to use the personal pronoun “we”: “We have a situation where we cannot decide what is the best way to cope with it, let’s think together.” It is generally important for the mediator to deal without placing the participants in opposite positions, and, accordingly, without judging who is right and who is wrong. Only when working together do we understand the problem and look for a solution. You can even get creative and draw the problem on the board. This will help to take the edge off, make the problem tangible. As a result, we will not attack each other, but the problem. Well, what else do you need for reconciliation?
5. Customize the workflow process
During the conversation, it is important for the mediator to:
- monitor compliance with the rules;
- remain neutral both externally and internally;
- understand everyone’s needs and disagreements. Make sure both parties are heard;
- ask everyone to voice their own decision and give reasons for it;
- find the average between the two poles, so that everyone wins.
It is better not to delay such a conversation, and constantly engage the participants to search for a way out of the conflict. As a result, it is important to define what the solution will look like. Ensure that participants understand how the solution will be implemented and what steps they should personally make to achieve it. Finally, thank everyone for participating and for following the rules. They must come out of this dispute as partners.
As always, preparation for conflict resolution will be in many ways more important than the process itself, and the regulation process will be far more essential than the result. After all, the real result will not be the loss of the dispute, but a new, more optimal work process, a useful developed skill, and a stronger team.