Believe it or not, even the companies with the best policies and working environments have conflicts big and small. It is a normal part of personal and common growth – under the condition that the conflict is properly managed and solved. Conflicts left un-tackled and uncurbed lead to lack of trust, loss of productivity, and, finally, to the disintegration of a working team as such.
If you don’t want such a grim future for your team that you have been hand-picking and training for many years, learn to face the conflicts bravely and settle them for the benefit of all parties. If you look where to start in this honorable endeavor, here’s a short outline of steps to take.
What to do
Tackle the conflict immediately
Don’t let the situation grow into a big problem, start settling it while it’s still a tiny bud. To be able to do so, you need to keep an eye on the whole team and its mood. If something looks wrong to you (and since you know your people, you’ll definitely ‘feel’ this wrongness), then something is really wrong and needs your action.
Set clear rules of behavior within the teams and between departments
Conflicts will arise less frequently if people know right from the start what is OK and what is not in the working process. Definitely, small disagreements on the acceptability of being late for a couple of minutes may grow into a big fuss, but sometimes shifting blame or appropriating the accomplishments of others may happen, too. Clarify right from the start what will not be tolerated and what can be negotiated and accommodated. Clear expectations help build a productive environment.
Provide space for open communication
You can talk to all parties individually and in private, but a conflict discussion and resolution should be done commonly. So first, provide channels and a safe space where all grievances can be explained to you without fear of retribution or dismissal, whether at work or outside the company premises. Then, assign a time and place where the common discussion will happen. It is an important step in any conflict settlement. ‘Nothing about me without me’ – this principle works in all areas of human interactions, so keep it in mind while making decisions.
Collaborate on solutions with all parties involved
Listen to every party – asking questions and seeking details – and then ask how the proper settlement will look like for each party. Their versions may diverge or look surprisingly similar. Your task is to bring them to a common denominator, either including all propositions into the final solution or offering a workable compromise.
Follow the implementation of solutions
When the solution is agreed upon, it’s tempting to stop paying attention. But that’s only half of the way. You can consider a conflict closed when the solution sets an example of healthy collaboration and the issue arises no more. To achieve that, you need to check that the solution is implemented carefully and the unwanted action is not repeated.
What not to do
Ignore the signs of the brewing conflict
The worst thing you can do is think that it will somehow dissolve without your involvement or that your team members ‘have to learn to defend themselves.’ People came to you to do the job, not to have a crash course in bullying or blame-shifting. They will leave to find a safer job, that’s the real outcome of ignoring the problem.
Pressure one party to give in to another one
In such a way you will only push the conflict under the carpet, making it explode with doubled force at the most unexpected moment. All interests should be accounted for; otherwise, it’s not a conflict resolution at all.
Offer solutions without taking into consideration the opinions of all parties
You may think that you know better how to deal with the situation, but actually, you don’t. Gather all, listen to all, and only then make a decision that will be agreed upon by everyone.
Consider yourself an expert in conflict management without getting even the basic-level training in this field
You may have the purest of intentions and try to reconcile all interests and voices, but if you do not have basic training and understanding of the very process, you will likely do it wrong.
So the best thing you can do for your team right away is to learn to manage conflict in a company from professionals. Pick the training session that matches your busy schedule and be prepared to steer your team through the trickiest challenges that may wait ahead.
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