Conflict Resolution & Conflict Management

Conflict in the workplace can go a long way to disrupting the progress of an organisation, and we have likely all experienced it first-hand. Today, we are going to look at what conflict management is, why it’s important, and how it can be facilitated.

What is conflict management

It might have been while working in a high-pressure environment, or under-resourced teams, or when working to an unrealistic deadline. You’ve probably experienced all three. But one thing is for sure, it happens, and managing it can be one of the hardest parts of a job.

All of the above examples (and more) lead to disagreements and unnecessary arguments, and if they are not handled at the right time, in the right way, they can quickly escalate. That’s why conflict management is such a pivotal part of everyday business and goes hand in hand with communication skills. It is the responsibility of the business leaders to take practical steps to solve and prevent conflicts. But why is it so important to deal with these conflicts?

Why should leaders deal with conflict?

Unfortunately, many leaders like to steer clear of tense situations and bury their heads in the sand in the hope that these conflicts will resolve themselves. This can help enhance their popularity in the workplace initially. However, what they may fail to realise is that further build-up of negativity and internal disruption amongst team members can cause irreparable damage in the long-term.

A leader must rectify any such situations so that they do not spiral out of control. When leaders help resolve conflicts, it strengthens the trust within the team. Thus, optimising employee output and growth of the organisation. Conflict management becomes therefore an important part of the leadership skillset.

How to deal with conflict

It is a leader’s responsibility to build a thriving and positive environment for their employees. It’s crucial that they engage employees in healthy discussions and manage any conflicts with the necessary care.

The following conflict management techniques will offer the different skills and approaches needed for resolving conflicts:

1. Timing is Key

Timing is of the utmost importance when addressing conflict within a team. A leader should act quickly, but only after giving themselves the time to review the dispute. From there, they can hold a healthy discussion in a safe environment for all involved, to help resolve the situation.

Employees will turn to their seniors and expect the necessary action to be taken in good time. If there are delays in addressing the conflict, this can lead to a loss of trust. A well-timed step toward confronting the issues is a must for every leader. If you hesitate, while making a decision, your reputation will suffer.

It’s also important for leaders to arm their teams with the skills to handle conflict within any sub-teams. This is important for their development, and to also understand why you may handle situations in certain ways.

Crucial Conversations Vitalsmarts© explains that if we can enter conversations that may involve a misunderstanding or a crossed purpose with an attitude of learning and clarity, then we can enhance the relationships and avoid conflict in the future. It’s crucial to handle these issues quickly and in a Timely manner to avoid conflict going forward.

2. Don’t Overstep the Mark

Understanding your team is paramount when trying to resolve conflicts. You’ll need to know how to communicate with each individual effectively while respecting their space and not overstepping the mark.

When you know your team members and understand their expectations, you can openly discuss their areas of concerns, helping you to solve them.

Once you’ve established the right level of understanding with your team, you will be able to read their behaviour and anticipate any future conflicts that may occur. Setting precedence and reinforcing performance expectations for every team member, will enable you, and them, to actively prevent any disputes from arising.

3. Respect Differences

If you’re the one trying to resolve a conflict, you’re likely the more senior member of staff, but this shouldn’t be an opportunity to be hierarchical or authoritarian. Like you, your colleagues are human, and they may have concerns that stem from life outside of work that can then be the cause of conflict in the workplace.

The Thomas Kilmann Instrument© looks at ways of managing conflict in different situations, with different personality preferences and on different topics. Kilmann© suggests we are on a range of co-operativeness and assertiveness. This range breaks down into 5 conflict management modes:

  • Competing – standing up for your rights, defending your position.
  • Collaborating – working with the other person to find a solution.
  • Compromising – finding an expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties.
  • Avoiding – not dressing the conflict for self or others.
  • Accommodating – the opposite of competing, where the individual neglects their own concerns in order to satisfy the concerns of the other person.

The Thomas Kilman Instrument© helps us understand that we may have a natural way of handling conflict, yet to be more productive in conflict management its useful to practice all five modes and use them appropriately.

As a leader, you need to respect the unique differences in people and try to understand their viewpoints before acting. The sooner you can help your team understand the perspectives of others; you will be able to resolve any issues and move forward

4. Face the Music

What many leaders understand but find it hard to practice is that they won’t always be liked. Their job is to seek out problems and solve them, and this won’t always be well received. Conflicts are often rife with emotional behaviour and don’t always contain an equal measure of rational behaviour. With this in mind, it’s even more essential to clock any issues as early as possible.

Conflict resolution is quite similar to other challenging decisions that you make in the organisation. You must trust your instinct and experience to make the right call.


Crucial Conversations Vitalsmarts©

Thomas Kilman Instrument©