How Much Time Do You Spend Managing Conflict?

BY Kathy Crosett
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It might start as a petty squabble about the best day to release a regular report. Your marketing person believes a Monday morning release will have the most positive impact for the company. Your accounting person says it’s impossible to get the numbers ready in time and is lobbying for a Tuesday release. Before you know it, two of your valued employees aren’t talking to each other. What’s your next step?

Before you act, take comfort in the fact that managers typically spend over two hours a week dealing with conflict. Does that sound familiar? Or is conflict a bigger time sink for you?

A Hubworks​.com article indicates that managers must first decide if they’ll take action.  As any parent knows, there is value is letting children work out some tiffs themselves. As a manager, you may find that employees with big personality differences may be able to find a way to work together. In doing so, they learn to be flexible, understanding and sometimes, forgiving.

Other arguments are not so easily resolved. You’ll need to step in and address the problem. Learn about the root of the conflict before you try to resolve it. Then determine the conflict management style you'll use.

In the example I gave at the start of this article, it’s likely that both employees understand the value of getting the report out on a timely basis. Using the collaborating style of conflict management, help your employees see that they actually have similar goals. Once they agree on a small detail, they’ll be more likely to continue working toward resolution. Give the employees the freedom to decide when the report should be released. If you don’t insist on a specific date and time, they’ll be able to work out the conflict.

On a routine basis, you should be encouraging your employees to freely share feedback with you. Be gracious about what you hear. Promise to think about it – instead of demoting the person who is brave enough to say what you’d like to ignore. This situation gives you the opportunity to set an example of the kind of office behavior you’d like to see.

Regardless of how well you model desired behavior, some conflicts can’t be resolved. If you have an employee who refuses to change behavior and who criticizes others on a personal level continuously, take immediate action. Show that employee the door, or you’ll be spending far more than two hours a week managing conflict.