Leadership Diaries: Handling the Conflict

When mentioning teams, whether they are leader-driven or self-directed, conflict and the impact it has have become hot topics among business professionals. People have different viewpoints, backgrounds and expectations, and sometimes these differences escalate into a conflict.

It’s Inevitable and Connected to Leadership

Here’s the thing – leadership and conflict go hand-in-hand. If you cannot manage conflict in a productive, healthy way, it will be difficult for you to stay in a leadership position. Don’t expect that all of your employees will be happy all the time. Setting utopian standards like this will drain you emotionally and affect your confidence as a manager. Clash of ideas and opinions usually appears among team members and being in a leadership position, one of your tasks is handling those issues.

The way you are handling the team is important because it affects your team members, and it can either improve the working atmosphere leading to more productivity and creativity, or it can do the exact opposite. Reasons, why differences appear between people, are many – the opposing positions, competition, power struggle, jealousy, someone having a bad day, pride, ego and so on.

You can try your best to avoid it, but in reality, you cannot escape the conflict. As a leader, you can choose to ignore, conceal or avoid it, but that will most likely create dysfunction and factional infighting. Eventually, this will affect the team, generating even more complex situation. Like any crisis, it’s best if it’s handled at the start. Being in a leadership position, you have a responsibility to address those situations before they escalate and get out of control. Not doing so will be a major oversight on your part. Even though conflict is a natural part of a group dynamics and it’s inevitable, there are some things you can do to prevent it from getting out of control.

What’s in It for Me

One of many ways to resolve a conflict is to take the WIIFM factor into account. WIIFM factor stands for “What is in it for me” and it’s crucial for a leader to understand to motivate and push his or her team members to achieve their goals and objectives. Personal benefit is a strong inner power, and if you use it to appeal to them, they will try harder and be more productive. This way not only will you help those around you and gain their respect and trust, but you will also reduce obstacles standing in your way in decreasing and resolving the conflict.

DOS

  • Acknowledging that a difficult situation exists Denying the existence of the problem or being reluctant to take control over the situation just drives you further from the solution. Developing the awareness that an issue exists and acknowledging it is the very first step towards solving it.
  • Group analysis A basic common ground is that people want to be appreciated and understood. Creating a safe and open environment for members of your team to communicate will give them equal opportunity to express their point of view. Ask each person involved to share their opinion and then to step back and put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
  • Taking a break Stepping back and looking from other people’s perspective helps to think outside the box, and develop empathy. When you turn your attention from the discussion, it is often easy to go back to it with a clear mind and resolve a certain issue.
  • Defining and determining the problem Making best of a conflict by turning disagreement into a brainstorming session, will remind everyone that they are important and valuable in the group.
  • Finding common areas of agreement and solutions The best conflict resolution technique is finding and identifying common ground and goals between members. Agree on some small changes and involve all members to determine which action will be taken.

DONT’S

  • blamingRunning First of all, if you run away from the problem hoping to avoid it, it will only make the situation worse.
  • Raising tensions Blaming someone else and finger pointing is not the answer and does nothing to solve the problem. It can only increase the tension inside the team.
  • Keeping a closed mind Pushing your point of view and showing little interest in others increases the conflict.
  • Being a bad cop Strong verbal threats and ultimatums can cause the opposite effects in relations between team members.
  • Letting emotions run wild Outbursts, stubbornness, insults and name-calling can turn people off and create a larger space between them.

Manage Your Behaviour  

When it comes to conflict, one of the most important things is to stay in control of your emotions and help others do the same. It’s another common mistake that can easily escalate into a major crisis. Don’t get me wrong, being direct and sincere is the best policy but letting your emotions take over and showing anger is different. It only shows that you are out of control.

If you feel that this is the case, consider answering with short sentences and keep your silence until you cool down. This will give a clear image that you are in control and will allow you to take charge of your emotions. You need to manage your frustration, take a step back, a deep breath and face the situation with a cool head. Allowing your emotions to make your decisions can only make the situation worse among team members.

Apart from your emotions, you need to manage your expectations as well. For example, setting unrealistic goals. You may ask people to change, but you cannot expect the change to happen overnight. Better is to set in-between goals so that the person can slowly adapt to what is expected of them. By the same token, if several persons are involved, you should start by asking everyone to make small changes.

In short, manage your conflict and keep a positive perspective! Instead of making it personal and threatening, treat it as a learning opportunity for your team, a challenging time after which they will be wiser and stronger.

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