How to Handle Conflict

I saw a posting online this week asking the question, “how to you handle conflict?” I couldn’t help but thing about some of the past jobs I’ve held. I have been fortunate enough in my career to be in a leadership role in many of the jobs I’ve held.

Somehow in the job that I had the most people reporting to me, I became the disciplinarian. I had 65 people that reported to me (4 managers and 60 hourly employees). My boss made me perform the write-ups and have the employees sign them. It was painful!

I had to work with these people every day, so the last thing I wanted to do was upset them enough to negatively impact their performance. How did I do it? In time I learned the steps that I have outlined below. By focusing on the expected future behavior and not focusing so much on the wrong behavior. So, here it is…

Advice on how to handle conflict:
1. Remain calm. Screaming will not fix things faster.
2. Don’t present yourself as superior, or better than, the person you are in conflict. No one wants to agree with someone that’s a jerk.
3. Demonstrate empathy. Try and have some sense of understanding of the opposing view.
4. Strive for a solution that serves the business and not the individuals.
5. Don’t attack or blame – what is done is over – describe the desired future behavior or outcome.
6. Never use absolute words (“you always”, “you never” etc.) – it creates a feeling of helplessness and also feels like a personal attack.
7. Treat people like they had the best intent, regardless of the results that caused the conflict.
8. Don’t stomp on people’s feelings – you’re going to see that person again.
9. Build on any agreements made during the conflict discussion.
10. Don’t part mad. You may not end the discussion with a hug, but there is no reason to end a conflict with either party having hurt feelings.

Remember, a conflict is simply two or more parties having differing views. It doesn’t always mean they are looking for different results. They may want the same end result, but have differing views on how to get the desired results.

Let me know if you find this helpful. Did I leave anything out? What do you do differently?

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