Conflicts are inevitable at the workplace. Conflicts undermine team work, result in long term performance issues & friction, saps energy & out of the box thinking and causes a breakdown in communication, to name a few. The ability to resolve conflicts in a positive way is an essential skill every leader should aspire to have. By learning the following four strategies and applying them to work, the management team can put many issues to rest in a way that would not incite resentment or any ill will in the employees.
Empathy is often the first on list in conflict resolution and is for a very good reason. Empathy is a rare skill by which the leaders can undertake the role of a mediator between two parties at logger heads over an issue. Their understanding of the situation will help them get the right perspective of both the sides so they can make the right decision.
In the resolution of a conflict, it may happen that one of the affected party may strongly remain glued to their position. In such cases, leaders may hone their active listening skills and acknowledge the persons viewpoint and hear them out in an empathic body language with open facial expressions and gestures, taking care to have the right voice, tone and pitch. The leader has to be good at managing emotions and very sincere in resolving issues with paraphrasing and superior questioning techniques. This is more so as parties involved in a conflict are already emotional and any external stimuli may heighten their emotions, which may complicate the situation even further. So good listening skills will definitely help.
Assertive communication is expressing oneself and wants in an appropriate, direct and thoughtful way, taking fully into account the feelings and needs of others. You choose to be self expressive, caring & straight forward in the conversations. The goal of the assertive person is to communicate with respect and to understand each other and to find a solution to the problem. Few examples of assertive phrases would be:
Assertive communication may cushion and turn conflicts into collaboration, if utilized judiciously.
Workplace harmony and conflicts starts with anticipated vibes and perceptions of other’s behavior and actions. People have a tendency to treat perceptions as reality. Many leaders do not attempt to resolve conflicts by thinking that the matter will get sorted out on it’s own with time or for some other reasons or priority. The most opportune time to avoid escalation of conflicts is at the initial stages. One on one interaction with subordinates affords the leader to gauge early about any impending conflicts, assuaging feelings at the right time and reaching consensus between the warring parties.
The following are few points which leaders may bear in mind, while resolving conflicts:
We tend to underestimate the value of good mannerisms at the workplace. Simple gestures viz., warm handshake, greeting people with an enthusiastic tone and a genuine smile will go a long way in uplifting mood and maintain harmonious relationships. Speaking the courteous and gentle way in conversations will add to eliciting trust between parties. To maintain cordial relationships, meeting socially will also foster a spirit of accommodation and tolerance towards each other and to appreciate divergent views. Gaining expertise in nonverbal communication will definitely be an added asset in conflict management training.
The ability to manage conflict is a critical skill and is a core competency for leaders at all levels. Companies must invest in improving conflict management abilities for their employees as the cost of conflicts in financial and other terms can be vast and unacceptable.
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