managing conflict in leadership

About the author : Valerie Dansereau

There are many skills required to effectively lead a team. One thing that those in leadership positions may prefer not to think about is what’s required for managing conflict in leadership and among the members of your team. Whether your business is large or small, people in many different roles may end up involved in a conflict, and when conflict does occur, it can affect many more people than just the ones directly in conflict.

Be Aware of What’s Going on Around You

In some organizations, those in leadership roles aren’t directly involved with their staff and leaders may lose touch with what’s going on around them. If conflict isn’t obvious, it may be easy to ignore. Some conflicts are actually productive and are best left alone to see if those in conflict can work things out between themselves.

There can be a fine line between not rushing to get in the middle of every conflict and waiting too long pretending nothing is going on. Be aware of what’s going on around you, including the general mood of the department. Ongoing conflict can bring down the morale of everyone nearby.

Recognizing and Identifying Causes of Conflict

There are many possible causes of conflict and once you’re aware there’s a conflict that needs to be addressed, it’s important to get to the root of the problem. Some possible causes of conflict include:

  • Staffing shortage
  • Miscommunication about who is doing what
  • Personality clash
  • Unconscious bias

Changes in procedures may require an adjustment period, and conflicts may arise when some are able to adjust easily and others aren’t. Differences in workstyle can lead to misunderstandings that can escalate quicky.

Listen to All Sides and Brainstorm Solutions

Open and honest communication is the best way to work through a conflict. Get those in conflict to meet with you in a private location and listen to all sides. Emotional outbursts aren’t allowed during this meeting. It’s imperative to respect differences and remain neutral. Each person should be allowed to express their perspective of what’s going on and why they haven’t been able to work through it.

Once everyone is clear about exactly what needs to be cleared up, the next step is to brainstorm solutions. Make it clear that most likely neither party is going to get all of what they want, so a solution that works for everyone has to be found.

Work on Preventing Future Conflicts

A big part of managing conflict in leadership is learning from each experience. Every situation is different and as a leader, you’ll do some things right and some things wrong. With each experience, consider how similar situations might be prevented in the future.

Taking the time for team building exercises can help staff get to know each other in a more relaxed setting. Make sure you’re providing clear communication about expectations and that everyone understands their roles.  Be open to learning opportunities whenever they arise such as in-person workshops or online webinars related to managing conflict and communication skills.

Know When to Get Help

As you work on managing conflict in leadership, you may find that there are times those in conflict are having difficulty arriving at a solution. Don’t try to ignore the situation. As conflict intensifies, it affects other people. There may be decreased productivity, low morale and increased absenteeism.

When it’s clear progress isn’t being made, you may need to admit you need help. Involve your human resources department or an outside conflict resolution service.

Reach out to Peaceful Leaders Academy for information on leadership skills resources.

About the author : Valerie Dansereau