News & Insight
November 2021

Conflict Resolution

Conflict resolution

The role of leader is a challenging one. So many responsibilities and tough decisions to make. One responsibility that stands out as especially daunting is resolving conflict.

Whenever people collaborate, conflicts are imminent, and it falls on a leader to resolve them in a fashion that all involved parties can live with.

Here are five things leaders should keep in mind when helping to resolve workplace conflicts.

Don’t keep biases

Before an executive is in a position to resolve a conflict, she needs to let go of any biases that she may have towards any of the involved parties. This means rising above personal trigger points and preconceptions. Only then can an executive fairly assess a conflict and help facilitate a fair and productive conclusion.

Set ground rules

Before starting the talks, the leader must set ground rules, emphasizing the need to treat each other with respect. They must clearly define the problem and that the goal is to collaborate on solutions.

Be a good listener

Listening well is crucial while trying to resolve conflicts. Executives must give all their attention to what the people in front of them are saying. They need to be sensitive to body language and people’s emotions. Sometimes, people don’t say what’s on their mind or are anxious about talking in front of other people, and they might need the leader to present them with an opportunity to speak. Finally, the leader must recognize that the goal is to listen and understand, rather than respond quickly with opinions or solutions. The more you speak, the less information you will receive in return.

Ask good questions

Effective leaders recognize the power in asking questions rather than providing answers. Well-crafted questions sometimes lead to the most significant breakthroughs in conflict resolutions. For instance, “What is your opinion?” is far less effective and is likely to give you a lot less information than “Can you please walk us through your thought process in reaching this opinion?”. Taking a moment to frame better questions will lead to better answers.

Find areas of common agreement,,,and solutions

At the end of the day, the leader needs to resolve the conflict. In most cases, it is a compromise. Ensure that all parties are allowed to express their feelings and ideas for resolution. Identify areas of agreement, no matter how small. Work with both sides to find solutions that take into consideration multiple alternatives. Finally make sure there is real commitment (and not just silent or passive resistance) to the solution, including concrete next steps, responsibilities, etc. In spite of your efforts, sometimes the conflict remains unresolved. In this case, it is important that you, as the leader, are clear with both sides regarding the consequences, future steps to find a solution, etc. This may entail additional group conversations, bringing in an outside facilitator/ombudsperson, executive coach, etc.

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