Conflict Management

To become a pro at conflict management is not as easy or glamorous as it has been portrayed in books. The idealistic personas are appealing, but the circumstances are not as charming when it comes to reality.

Unfortunately, many undertakings fail to grow into an individual who genuinely has hindsight, a tunnel vision, and a backbone to successfully carry the team.

Among the many burdens of being a leader, resolving conflict the best you can while maintaining a great synergy within the team is on the top of the list.

In my career of 20 something years, I have seen many take the position with unrealistic expectations and forget that people are bound to have conflicts. You cannot have a team of individuals with their own set of personalities, visions, and hotheadedness and not run into any arguments or disagreements.

As much as this is bound to happen, it is the person’s job in the leadership position to ensure the matter is resolved positively. Now, if you are new to the game, let me help you in this regard.

Here’s how you can effectively resolve team conflicts.

Team Conflict Resolution

Before we get to the ways you can resolve conflicts, you need to know the skills required to be eligible in the first place. One can say that these are the prerequisites.

Creating a Healthy Culture?

Often, conflicts could arise due to the toxic office environment. This is why you need to ensure that the culture you have created is positive, encouraging, and supportive. The lead plays an integral role in nurturing a positive culture.

There are many ways to do that; here are a few tricks you can apply.

  • Positive Reinforcements: No matter the issue, big or small, from you, there should always be positive reinforcements rather than any shutting-down remarks or, worse, insulting a team member in front of others. Once you start exuding positive and problem-solving behavior, the team members will start trusting you with their problems.
  • Spot the Conflict Early On: As a leader, you need to be aware of your surrounding and be on your guard about any potential brewing of conflict or bad blood. Once you find a dispute that may escalate, you can immediately address it there and then.
  • Have Specific Ground Rules Set In Stone: These rules should dictate certain etiquettes that need to be followed at all costs. Rules could be anything from respecting your team members, listening to each other with patience, not interrupting or passing any remarks in front of the team.
  • Do not take sides: This is the worst thing a leader can do. It would help if you stayed on neutral grounds at all times. Your role is to address the conflict from each end and resolve it the best you can, with no party getting the upper hand.

One of the best ways to understand how to resolve the conflict is through examples. Let me put some cases in perspective.

One usually would encounter three basic types of conflicts as a boss.

Conflict Type #1: Conflict with the Boss

There is a situation where an employee has a bone to pick with the boss. And this type of clash usually arises when the person in authority has little to no faith in their skill and ability. This type of low trust from the boss induces a sense of frustration and disappointment that eventually erupts into a fight or an argument.

Moreover, the bosses that engage in micromanagement and consistently placing the employee under some form of criticism will face the employee’s wrath. Another reason that can add to boss-employee conflict is being overlooked for justified promotion or lack of transparency from the management side.

Conflict Type #2: Conflict with a Colleague

Collaboration and teamwork are what everyone speaks about. However, when the office environment is that of competition, unfair advantage, favoritism, unjust recognition, and unfair workloads, there are bound to be conflicts within the colleagues.

You can expect clashes of egos and intensifying office politics.

Conflict Type #3: Conflict with Direct Reports

Conflicts can arise due to direct reports being unfair, which means burdening one team member with a lot of work or overlooking the slacker.

Other times, it could be a change in the boss. When things and duties change, there could be difficulty adapting to new KPIs, rules, deliverables, or situations. The conflict could also result from an individual’s low self-esteem, personal goals, and other things concerning them personally.

Ways to Manage these Conflicts

There are several ways to go about conflict resolution depending on the type it is. You need to be smart and thoughtful at the same time to ensure that you do not end up adding fuel to the fire.

I have come across some major to minor conflicts in my own experience, and now that I run a successful company that provides the best life sciences consulting services. As a CEO and president, I overlook a large workforce and try to keep an open-door policy. With this being said, I think I am more than eligible to provide you with some valuable tips on extinguishing a fire before it engulfs your workplace and its environment along with it.

Boss-Employee Conflict

I have often noticed that the issue was miscommunication or misunderstanding on one party or both.

Often, employees misunderstand the boss’s goals and motivations and feel threatened by micromanaging. For such conflicts, both parties need to sit down and have open conversations. The boss can clarify their intentions and aim behind their actions, while the employee(s) can share their concerns.

When approached with an open mind and an ear willing to listen, such conversations end up resolving conflict and come up with innovative solutions and techniques.

Colleague-Colleague Conflict

As a leader, when you are resolving conflicts between two team members, it is of utmost importance that you do not take sides or show that you may be leaning towards one person more than the other. At this time and in such a situation, both parties are experiencing heightened frustration levels, and you showing agreement with one might cause the problem to worsen.

A great leader considers both equally important and right in their ways. You can help them find common grounds and figure out a way that appeals to both. Moreover, you can try helping them understand each other’s points of view. More importantly, your positive approach and stress on ‘effective communication‘ will help resolve the matter quickly.

Wrapping Up

Conflicts are expected, and they are bound to arise. If not in an obvious fashion, then in the form of passive-aggressiveness. Both types are not good and require third-party interference, usually by the team lead or anyone in the leadership position.

Before a leader tries to resolve any conflict within their organization, they need to check themselves. If they have not been growing as a person and, more importantly, as a lead, they would be a bigger problem in the long run than the conflicts. Why?

If the person responsible for seeing the bigger picture, be the bigger person, be more intuitive, have a vision, and be an example is not up to the task, then the company or the team under them is bound for failure.

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William Patrick Slattery
William Patrick Slattery is the President and CEO of Nieuw Amsterdam Advisors, a life sciences consulting firm. He is regarded as one of the top marketing experts in the Life Sciences industry, noted for combining a calm demeanor with a shrewd negotiation skill set that allows for navigating the most challenging business environments on behalf of his client firms.
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