Published Date: 08/04/2014
By Reneé Watkins
Put any two people in a room together for a period of time and there is likely to be conflict at some point. Conflict is a part of life.
No one likes conflict. Many people will go to great lengths to avoid conflict because they feel conflicts can only end poorly and the process of resolving a conflict will only make matters worse.
If you have difficulty facing or resolving conflicts and if you are in a position of leadership, your potential as a leader is being compromised. You may, as a leader, make excellent decisions, hire great people and create winning teams. However, unless you can face and resolve conflicts, you will not be able to lead your organization to reach its full potential and you will not realize your full potential within the organization. Conflict resolution is a vital skill that leaders need to learn.
As a leader, you cannot afford to wait for a conflict to resolve itself over time. Conflicts may subside over time, but most will simmer below the surface and re-appear at a later date. During this quiet period, the conflict will grow larger and deeper, creating other problems in the workplace and among your team members. Others will be aware of the conflict and will be uncomfortable that management has not helped to resolve the issue.
When entering into a conflict situation, it is important to do so confidently and authoritatively. Your involvement is intended to help resolve the conflict in a healthy and productive manner. Do not allow your own emotions to get the best of you. Dismissing the conflict as trivial or becoming angry regarding the conflict will not help the situation. An issue may not be important to you, but it is obviously important to the parties involved and must be given an appropriate level of priority and attention on your part.
A properly handled conflict resolution can serve to strengthen the relationship between team members and management by building trust and opening the door for future conflicts to be brought to management earlier. Effective leaders respond to conflict calmly and in a respectful manner toward all parties involved. A good leader also realizes that, while conflict resolution demands accountability, it does not demand punishment.
A few points to remember when resolving conflict include:
- Having a clear winner in a conflict means also having a clear loser. No one should feel they won or lost when a conflict is resolved, only that it is settled and you can move forward. Compromise is not a bad thing.
- Stay focused on the here and now. Conflict resolution is about the current conflict at hand. This is not the time to rehash over prior conflicts resolved long ago or to settle old grudges and resentments.
- There should be give and take. Agree to disagree if a specific point of a conflict appears it is never going to be resolved. It is okay to let some points go, in order to move the resolution process forward and put the conflict to rest.