leadership dealing with conflict

About the author : Valerie Dansereau

When you’re in a leadership role, you face many challenges on a daily basis. From time to time you may find yourself faced with disputes between employees that seem to be escalating rather than being worked out. Many people are inclined to avoid confrontation, but your staff is looking to you to find a solution. If you’re new to leadership, dealing with conflict may seem like an insurmountable challenge, but there’s a solution to every conflict.

Finding Out What’s Going On

Some conflicts work themselves out without a lot of drama, and for this reason, you don’t need to get involved every time team members are having a dispute. But disagreements that are starting to affect other people have to be addressed. When conflict is allowed to fester, it can intensify. The worse it gets, the more it contributes to an unpleasant work environment and affects morale. Once it reaches this point, when you’re in leadership, dealing with conflict has to be one of your top priorities.

The first thing you’ll need to do is find out exactly what’s going on. You’ll need to let those that are involved in the dispute know that you’re aware there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Set up a meeting in which each of the parties involved has a chance to tell their side of things. Establish ground rules such as neither is to interrupt the other when it’s their turn to speak and make sure everyone understands that screaming or other emotional outbursts are not allowed.

Self-Awareness in Dealing with Conflict

Leaders need to work on self-awareness when confronting a conflict. It’s important that you act as an impartial mediator, which means you can’t show any hint of choosing sides. There are times when one party may clearly seem to be in the right, but you have to remain neutral and avoid letting your own personal biases come up.

Keep control of your own emotions. If one or both of your employees is being unreasonable, don’t allow yourself to be reactive. Be conscious of your own facial expressions and body language. Work on staying calm and communicating the fact that you’re fully present and paying attention to what each party has to say. People want to be heard, and it’s your job to let them know you’re concerned and interested in the perspectives of each of them. Stay focused on the problem and not the individuals.

Working Toward a Solution

Once the reason for the conflict is out in the open, guide the participants in working toward a solution that works for both of them. Clarify what each is hoping to see happen and look for common ground. Brainstorm possible solutions and discuss which is the most likely to work for everyone. Define the next steps that each should take to work through the issue.

You’ll need to follow up and make sure that the agreed-upon solution is actually working. In particular, pay attention to whether each of the people involved in the conflict is doing what they said they would do. If a staff member is being hostile or uncooperative, let them know that’s not acceptable and that it has to be addressed. Know when you need to ask for help from HR or from a conflict resolution coach.

When it comes to the responsibilities of those in leadership, dealing with conflict is often something people don’t really like to do, but it goes with the territory.  Serious conflicts that aren’t addressed can create a toxic work environment, lead to increased absenteeism, and trigger other staff members to start looking for other employment opportunities.

For expert help in restoring a peaceful work environment, reach out to Peaceful Leaders Academy.

About the author : Valerie Dansereau