Conflict is an inevitable part of work. We’ve all seen situations where people with different goals and needs have clashed, and we’ve all witnessed the often intense personal animosity that can result. But, conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. When you resolve it effectively, you can also eliminate many of the hidden problems that it brought to the surface.
With my years coaching managers and employees through workplace disagreements, I have collected my own repository of techniques to resolve issues between people. Following are my most tried and true tips.
- Relieve your own stress before any discussions with others. When your right brain (emotions) is dominating, your left brain (logic) is in the background. You want to be predominantly logical when discussing a problem. Let’s take the example of an underperforming employee. You have had multiple conversations with no improvement in performance. You are annoyed, irritated, disappointed in this person because now you need to start disciplinary actions. Work through your frustrations BEFORE you conduct your disciplinary conversation.
- Separate people from problems and emotions. What are the causes for this employee’s underperformance? Lack of skills? No enthusiasm for the job? Difficult personal issues? Extract the “facts” about the situation. Keep your personal assumptions about the person out of the equation. This can be difficult, but if you have worked through your own frustrations, you can be logical and clear-headed when getting to the heart of the issue.
- Listen first, talk second. Listen carefully to other’s viewpoint. Ask clarifying questions.Take notes. Keep your POV (point of view) to yourself until later. Revisit Steven Covey’s “7 Habits” wisdom: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Or, consider to my Mom’s wisdom: “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” ‘Nuff said.
- Explore options together. Even with an underperforming employee, this step is essential to move forward. After laying out the facts which confirm the sub-par performance, ask the employee for recommendations on solving the issue. You may be surprised what you hear. Many times, I have had managers tell me that when they did this step, the employee admitted he/she was unhappy in the role and wanted to move on. That is a much easier action plan than working through the steps to termination.
Resolving conflict requires emotional maturity, self-control, and empathy. It can be tricky, frustrating, and even frightening. You can ensure that the process is as positive as possible when you remove the emotions, listen to others carefully and explore the facts and possible solutions together.
NOTE: Do you need an “employee relations” consult? Let me help you get clear on how to move forward. Schedule a complimentary Breakthrough Session here: Free Consult or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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