Conflict Resolution Tips {Bonus} Conflict Self-Assessment Tool

Conflict can create unexpected disruptions in the workplace, resulting in lost time, inefficient operations, and reduced morale among employees. Simply avoiding conflict isn’t always possible, and usually won’t help to resolve the problems that may arise from conflict.

While it’s important to choose your battles wisely, having conflict resolution tools in your pocket can help to keep conversations productive and move everybody toward a more peaceful operation.

In 2019, we hosted two IAW members, Michelle Burke and Jill Windelspecht, for an eChapter session focused on conflict. While a lot of resources and questions were covered during the live webinar, several questions weren’t answered. Jill is back on the blog today sharing some great advice to help you navigate conflict in the workplace and Michelle has a great conflict self-assessment tool offered below.

Conflict-Averse Management Team

When somebody is conflict-averse, they will make efforts to avoid issues instead of tackling them head-on. One specific example noted was of a CEO who would prefer to fire/hide/pretend that conflict is not happening, even for small issues. How do you help the leadership team move forward and tackle issues, instead of running away from them?

Jill notes that it sounds like this leadership team is struggling with a difficult discussion – something that is important for leaders to be able to navigate but not uncommon for people to avoid or ignore. One tactic that could be utilized is to highlight the cost of not addressing conflict in this scenario. CEOs tend to be moved by facts and numbers, and if behavior is impacting turnover, productivity, safety, etc., they will be forced to act. It may be that the conflict is impacting trust and teamwork, essential elements of being able to move the organization forward. Jill adds that the issues may be being addressed privately, and you aren’t aware of that. In the end, she suggests a conversation with the CEO to share what you are noticing and to ask them how they intend to address the conflict.

“Boss Abuse”

If you feel like you’re being taken advantage of or being treated poorly at work, especially by your direct boss or somebody higher, it can be hard to find the courage to report the behavior. Jill comments that in this case, it’s really important to leverage the resources you have inside your organization to help address this type of behavior. “Believe it or not, there are definitely times when there is a lack of awareness on behalf of the boss, where the impact was not the intention. Without good leadership training or role models, leaders tend to ‘do what was done to them,’ which can be unfortunate.” One webinar viewer noted that one thing that worked extremely well for them was to have witnesses from the workplace who had observed negative behavior speak to HR on their behalf.

Lack of Communication

Lack of clarity and communication is the number one reason for conflict beginning. Jill recommends that you ask your boss how you can stay up-to-date on changes, approaching this from a point of trying to get alignment and clarity. If a lack of communication is a consistent problem, ask your peers if they have found a better way to stay informed. Jill notes that “when we approach people first with an intent to improve our understanding and build relationships versus discuss past mistakes, they are more likely to be open to discussing a move-forward plan.”

Conflict with Outside Parties

In one example from the eChapter audience, it was noted that a vendor was creating a lot of conflict with the internal team – difficult negotiations and flat-out no answers when they are being paid for their services. Jill suggests that the first step here would be to have a discussion with the vendor and make sure that they are aware of the impact they are having on the team. Awareness is the first step: you can’t assume that they realize they are causing issues or that they are being difficult. As the client, though, you can clearly state what you need from them. Additionally, ensure that any requirements related to behavior and support are clearly defined in the contract; if they aren’t, be sure to update them during the next contract negotiation. Finally, ask the vendor how they think the relationship is working and if this is how they work with other clients – there could be misunderstanding on both sides. Once you get to awareness and alignment, the next step is to define an agreed-upon go-forward plan that includes check-in, feedback, and how the conflict will be managed going forward.

{BONUS} Take the Conflict Self-Assessment

How well do you manage conflict? Michelle Burke of Bossibly has developed a self-assessment tool that will help you to better understand how well you manage conflict. This self-assessment includes additional resources to help you better manage conflict, improve communication, become a better problem solver, and increase your emotional intelligence. Download the Self-Assessment Tool Now

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