I recently gave a presentation to a group of manufacturing leaders around conflict management and negotiations. While both of these topics are worthy of semester-long college courses, I enjoyed the opportunity to boil down some of the learnings from my HR career. I have learned that whenever you have more than one person working on something, there is conflict. And, the best teams that I have worked on embrace and manage this conflict effectively. Here are a few of the tips that I passed along.
- Embrace it
- Accept it
- Manage it
First, you’ll need to embrace it. Conflict is a component of high performing organizations. If you get a bunch of smart people together, they will approach a problem differently. Engaging these perspectives, challenging assumptions, building on top of ideas, setting aside egos, and acknowledging that everyone can help improve an idea, leads to a better outcome.
Second, accept that debate and difference of opinion can lead to an emotional or visceral response, like fight or flight. I had a meeting with a client who mentioned that his wife would tell him during arguments that, “You can’t argue with my feelings.” This is a key point when having disagreements with coworkers, family members, roommates, etc. If someone feels slighted, there will be an emotional reaction. In the book Crucial Conversations (Patterson), the expression used to describe this is that people often move to silence or violence. I am sure that you can relate to being on a team and then seeing someone disengage, or react angrily. Skilled conflict managers are able to keep people engaged and keep the discussion constructive.
Third, manage it effectively. You can often control the timing and location of the discussion. For significant issues, make sure that you choose a time after you have had a chance to cool off and gather your thoughts. Pick a neutral location and limit the number of people involved so that people don’t feel like they are being criticized in front of an audience. Also, take advantage of the numerous tools and techniques available. Definitely read Crucial Conversations and Getting to Yes (Fisher) for extensive tools and tips that will help you improve the effectiveness of your organizations and teams.
Early and thoughtful management of conflicts is increasingly important in the “new normal” which is much more stressful in general, and makes it more difficult for managers to pick up on issues from staff members. We also suggest frequent check-ins, additional rewards and recognition, and process improvements during this time to help the employee experience. Good luck!
What are your favorite ways to manage conflict and keep morale high during these challenging times? Send me your suggestions and I’ll include them in my next blog.
If you would like to chat about a challenge you are facing, please feel free to connect with me at Amy@AmyCellTalent.com or 734-657-0370. You may also learn more about our Human Resources Services here.
Amy Cell Talent: Building customized HR solutions and finding key talent since 2015.