Conflict—no one likes it, but we all must deal with it. Conflict exists in every corner of life, and the workplace is no different. As a manager, CEO or executive, if you can’t or won’t address conflict in a healthy and productive way, you’re missing leadership opportunities. According to Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, “Compassionate management is the only way to live and lead.”
Here are some tips on how to deal with an array of conflicts that may arise in the workplace.
Effective and compassionate communication.
Many conflicts that arise or become worse are a result of lack of information, poor information, no information or misinformation. Most times, employees are left to interpret some part of management’s messaging, be it lack of understanding of what to do with information, how to execute it or even simply trying to decipher what it really means. Clear, concise, accurate and timely communication will help ease both the number and severity of conflicts.
Don’t let conflict fester—deal with it.
Conflicts can’t always be prevented, but they can be resolved fairly painlessly if done so correctly. By actually seeking out areas of potential conflict and proactively intervening in an honorable and decisive manner, managers can help prevent certain conflicts from ever arising. If a conflict does pop up, minimize its severity by dealing with it quickly. Time spent identifying and understanding natural tensions will help to avoid unnecessary conflict.
See the silver lining.
All conflicts have the potential for growth and learning opportunity. Where there is disagreement there is potential for development and understanding. Take the opportunity to use conflict as a team-building exercise or education. Divergent positions addressed properly can stimulate innovation and learning in positive and strong ways. Proactive and compassionate leaders will see that conflict can be used to serve a positive purpose as long as it is done so with compromise, forgiveness, compassion and empathy. Find the common ground; start with listening, make sure to serve the employee(s) and you will find that everyone can come away with a positive outlook from the situation.
Put strong emotions aside.
When conflicts arise, it is hard to put emotions aside. Circumstances can crop up that fuel your own personal emotions or prejudices regarding the conflict, and if not checked, can lead to the conflict flaring up in ways you did not intend. We are human beings, so it’s very natural to let our thinking, philosophies and values guide how we handle conflict. However, as a leader, learning how to take your personal beliefs and put them aside in order to understand the underlying conflict is not only valuable, but a necessity as a leader. Proper conflict resolution starts by admitting your own feelings on the situation, then involving a bipartisan third party, (i.e., organizational conflict resolution team), that can help deal with the conflict in a constructive, positive and compassionate way.