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Managing Conflict: Leader Lessons

Managing Conflict: Leader Lessons

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Faced with conflicts in a workgroup, managers often try to correct perceptions (and misperceptions) by lecturing team members about who’s right and who’s wrong. Or, they call Human Resources and expect them to resolve the personnel problem.

What if managers were better equipped to resolve conflict? What would that look like?

Writer Annie Dillard famously said, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” For many of us, a large portion of every days is spent at work. In fact, the average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime.

Here are five lessons for managers seeking to resolve workplace conflict between team members:

Lesson One – The Problem is . . . Me?
It’s far easier to judge others’ behavior than to look at one’s own. Try asking individuals in the conflict to answer two questions in advance of a face-to-face discussion: a) What is one behavior of which I’m proud when I think about my role in this conflict? b) What is one behavior I wish I hadn’t said/done when I think about my role in this conflict? Coming clean about it can set the stage for a more positive resolution with others.

Lesson Two – Respect Others’ Values
What one team member sees as inefficient communication or disorganized processes—another team member may see as a supportive effort to accommodate everyone’s needs. A manager who asks each team member what motivated his or her reason for behaving a particular way may be able to get to an underlying value that the other team member can appreciate and see in a new light.

Lesson Three – Find Common Ground
Team members can work effectively together without making everyone a buddy. To facilitate this process as a manager, you need to be highly observant. Remind your team members of similarities you’ve seen in their approach to customer issues, in work ethic, in communication styles.

Lesson Four – Tackle Problems Directly
When conflicts arise, managers often want to tamp down the frustrations rather than tackling them head on. But, sometimes exasperation can help groups find solutions. A manager, as third party to a conflict, can facilitate the discussion that leads to a solution. But, not if he/she is hiding in the office and hoping the conflict will go away.

Lesson Five – Let in Joy
Workgroups can develop ease and a closeness that makes work better, richer and more interesting. Acknowledging the hard work of being together 8 or more hours a day opens the door for moments of joy. We just don’t grow in isolation; we grow in relationships.

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavior change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com

Center for Practical Management is a strategic business partner with Raddon, a Fiserv Company. Learn more at www.raddon.com