Confidently Leading through Conflict at Work

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Conflict. Which end of the spectrum do you lie on? Are you the type of person who gets energized when there is conflict at work and you have to deal with it? Or are you the type of person who shies away from conflict, avoiding it at all costs?

If you are the latter type of person, simply thinking about conflict probably makes you withdraw, feel uncomfortable and anxious. You are not alone, but the thing is, it’s probably not necessarily conflict itself that makes you feel this way. It is unresolved conflict that is likely causing the negative feelings. Unresolved conflict has so many harmful effects, including decreased productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, employee turnover, divided teams, and unhealthy confrontation.

Conflict can feel gross; unresolved conflict not only feels gross but can also be detrimental. The longer you go with acknowledging or addressing conflict, the worse the effects. As a leader, you must be able to handle conflict within your team and the workplace. Even if it requires you stepping outside your comfort zone, you’ll need to deal with conflict and you’ll need to deal with it well.

How do you confidently lead through conflict at work?

Set the stage

An environment that is open, allows constructive criticism, and encourages problem solving, is one that is set up to hash out conflict. Before you dive into the meat of the conversations, make sure it’s known that the past is not the concern anymore, it’s all about the future. Emphasize how you want to work together with the other person to achieve the best possible solution.

Describe the conflict

In the conversation, be honest and direct while describing the conflict as objectively and clearly as you can. You can show feelings, as long as they don’t overpower the conversation; you want to keep the situation professional and respectful. Keep your calm so your hot buttons don’t interfere with the success of the conversation.

Gain perspective

You have feelings, but so does the other person in the conversation. You should never assume you understand how they feel, so think about what questions you can ask them to better understand their perspective. Actively listen when the other person speaks, letting them know you’re trying to understand where they’re coming from.

Seek agreement

This part is typically the most difficult in the midst of conflict. Start by identifying points that both parties mutually agree on, as well as mutual points of disagreement. This will start clearing things up that otherwise might remain muddled.

Identify solutions

Once the points of agreement and disagreement are solidified, you can brainstorm possible solutions that will benefit the goals and motives of both parties. You want to start by laying out many possible solutions, then whittling down the options, and ultimately ending with a solution that both parties feel good about (if possible).

Develop an action plan

Once the best viable solution is decided, it’s time to create a plan of implementation for both parties. Acknowledge your appreciation for the other person’s willingness to resolve the conflict together.

Conflict can be gross, but it doesn’t have to be so gross. Follow the tips above if you find yourself in situations that require tough conversations. In the meantime, you can, as a leader, create an environment of vulnerability, honesty, and trust.

If you would like to be intentional about growing this area, check out our training that’s coming up → Navigating Conflict & Uncomfortable Conversations at Work

If you want team training to improve conflict resolution, communication, and employee engagement, chat with a CoreCounts Consultant about the options we have for team training!

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