Do Your Managers Know This Conflict-​Resolution Trick?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Your rock-​star employees have made a huge difference in your organization. Whether they’ve brought in a huge client or filed paperwork for a patent on a new product, you want to keep them happy. Many rock-​star employees believe they have leadership potential. Before you move them into a management role, give them some training — specifically in conflict management.

Role Model

Hopefully, you’re already setting a good example with respect to conflict management. Don’t be like the leaders who cringe when they hear that term. And, then there are the managers who pretend to be busy with something important so they can avoid actively managing a dispute or a disagreement. Neither of those reactions serve as good role modeling.

When to Step In

Sure, there are times when it’s best to let employees work out differences themselves. In the process, they’ll learn they’re capable of using an important workplace attribute — compromise. But, if a disagreement festers, and the work output of the involved employees suffers, your rising leader needs to step in. Before they do, explain how the process works.

The Process

One subject-​matter expert, Robb Holman, author of Lead the Way: Inside Out Leadership Principles for Business Owners and Leaders, has particularly helpful advice. Simply put, a healthy conflict resolution process includes self-​assertion, active listening and the ultimate goal of collaboration.

When your new manager is ready to help resolve a conflict, remind them that each party deserves to be heard. Self-​assertion encourages each employee to speak with civility and, hopefully without emotion, about what they perceive as the problem. Whether it’s a dispute over a coveted parking space, or the results of an important consumer survey, each person is entitled to their opinion. While one person is speaking, the other person should be engaged in active listening. That means paying attention respectfully and trying to hear about the conflict from another point of view. During the process, if employees start to raise their voices or interrupt each other, call for a time-​out. After a few minutes, remind the participants that the end goal of the interaction is to find a way to collaborate.

Conflict resolution can feel like an overwhelming process for managers at any level. Equipping them with tools, and offering to hold a practice session, can build confidence.