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March 2, 2019

Don’t Run Away from Conflict!

No one likes conflict, especially with team members or coworkers. When a conflict arises, many people avoid handling it, and sometimes, that is the best way to go. Some conflicts resolve themselves with time, and some are related to short-term stresses that go away when the stress does. While avoidance may work in the short term, it is not a good solution for conflicts that persist or that escalate.

Good leaders and managers know when to let a conflict resolve itself and when they need to step in. One tactic for addressing conflict is to use your positional power to resolve it. While this can work, it should be used only when absolutely necessary, such as in matters of safety or security or if tempers are raging and people need time to settle down. As a long-term solution, it doesn’t work. Unless the source of the conflict is dealt with, it can simmer and eventually boil over.

Addressing conflict requires you to have a conversation with everyone involved to discover the underlying cause of the conflict and determine how to handle it. Require people to be objective and refrain from making personal or derogatory comments. Focus them on behaviors, explain how the conflict is harming the team’s ability to be positively productive, and state the need to resolve the situation.

Bring people together for a facilitated conversation to focus everyone on a common goal. Reframe the situation and encourage them to find solutions that eliminate the conflict and that everyone finds acceptable.

Handling conflict requires resilience and strong communication skills, and it is a hallmark of professionalism. See my blog post Build Resilience for more information.

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