Integrity in the workplace is vital for the performance of your team, and the working environment overall. Unresolved issues, resulting in further conflicts, hinder the work on various levels, both socially and professionally. Sometimes conflict is unavoidable, sometimes it can be foreseen – but in every scenario, finding a resolution will benefit everyone involved. Handling conflicts as a manager is no easy task – but somebody’s got to do it!
Fight or Flight?
Ignoring existing issues and postponing solving problems until they get reach their critical point is highly unprofessional and ineffective, yet surprisingly common. Timely and constructive feedback helps preventing the conflict; communication with its participants is the key to settling an intense dispute. Being a successful manager and efficient conflict counselor requires critical thinking and emotional intelligence, appealing to Pathos and Logos.
The chance of not participating or witnessing a conflict in one’s professional career? Approximately zero. Conflict is a part of routine that all workers have to deal with. Nevertheless, many executives – and employees in general – lack the expertise on how to handle conflict.
The CFO of company “A” was continuously executing only the CEO’s commands and ignoring the other team members’ input, not fully optimizing business processes and losing valuable suggestions. It not only lowered the performance, but also decreased the morale and caused dissatisfaction and a feeling of disrespect among the colleagues. As the result, the team united within itself and declared a cold war against the CFO, eventually making her leave.
This is an example of “fighting” a conflict in an improper way. The means by which this solution was reached are highly questionable. Neither side acted professionally, or with the business’s interests at heart. No matter whether one’s idea is implemented or not, appropriate feedback should be given, one should always keep an open mind for useful contributions, especially within a team of professionals. The CFO’s colleagues did not show interest in solving the conflict efficiently and expressing their concerns in a logical and emotionally intelligent manner. The team should not have been apprehensive when it comes to tackling the conflict; it’s a professional, not a personal matter. Effective business performance and capability to deliver a positive result depends on the capability of resolving of the conflict. If the team was not willing to discuss the business processes and goals with the CFO, then the third party, the CEO, should have been asked to mediate the issue.
Threat from Within
A new worker was hired to work for the ABC Company. Company ABC prided itself on its friendly and harmonious environment of specialists. Gossip soon began – the clients were dissatisfied with a certain employee’s performance; Joe from the sales department earns more than Bill; a series of firings is to be expected etc. The interpersonal connections in the team got weaker, teamwork and collaboration was reduced. The newly hired worker, who didn’t know how to operate in the positive working environment, was the source of the intrigues and drama.
In this scenario, the conflict could have been prevented in the beginning stage, during the selection. Potential intriguers are prone to telling that they are not inclined to conflicts or quarrels and repeatedly mention their positive attitude in comparison to their uncoordinated colleagues. Finding an intriguer and changing his behavior patterns proves to be complicated and time-consuming. The intriguer must be carefully guided through the corporate culture by the team members; negative communication experience should be closely analyzed to correct the behavior. If friendly behavior and constructive feedback does not bring the desired result, the issue should be mediated with the upper management. Unfortunately, in most of the cases the intriguer is hard to persuade and the most common conflict solution is firing.
Tara and Emma were working together on project Z. The team was frequently sharing ideas in an informal atmosphere, then presenting them at meetings. In one of the meetings, Tara introduced Emma’s idea – without giving her any credit. Emma ignored her colleague’s misstep, while Tara got a bonus for the optimal solution for the problem.
The first approach in solving the conflict is representing and understanding the current situation as ineffective and unprofessional. If that’s the first time incident like that happens, it would be beneficial to talk to the colleague after the meeting and explain the situation. In an interpersonal conflict like this one try to appeal to arguments and emotions, do not suppress them and don’t overreact, as it may cause undesired consequences and illustrate your incompetence in solving conflicts and emotional intelligence. If the situation continues, make a point when it’s happening, explaining the circumstances under which the idea was formulated and passed to another employee, and of course the possible solutions and details to the original idea. Ignoring and avoiding the conflict is the worst one can do as the manager or an employee. Talking through a conflict at least offers a chance of solving the issue. The ability to tackle the conflict defines one’s capability of being a leader.