Conflict Resolution For Leaders

If you’ve spent any time managing people, you are probably familiar with the difficulties surrounding work place disagreements. Cringing aside, how you handle these situations will determine whether your team continues to experience conflict or benefits from useful lessons.

It’s well recognised that conflict can take two forms. The first, known as cognitive conflict, is logical, task-orientated, and impersonal. During these disagreements, communication remains open on all sides and an issue is hashed out in an effective manner.

Affective conflict is the type conflict which is best avoided. Parties involved become affected on a personal level: offences are taken and productive discussion just won’t happen.

In order to move towards resolution, those involved in conflict should be guided to discuss ideas from a logical perspective. As a leader, help to steer everyone clear of personal insults and blame. This is crucial to staying on track.

Resolving conflicts takes great personal skills and—if handled like a pro—can result in growth and development. Regardless of the context of conflict and whether you are the mediator or participant, several skills are useful. Let’s highlight a few you’ll want to pay attention to.

Self-regulation skills

Seeing as conflict is a natural environment for heated feelings, the ability to monitor and shift negative emotions is essential. These include: anger, resentment, jealousy, judgement, and superiority.

Negative emotions influence your body language, tone of voice, and use of language—all are building blocks to conflict resolution. Check out our explanation of Emotional Intelligence For Leaders piece for more insight.

Communication skills

If you can’t verbalise what’s in your head in a clear manner, you’re starting out on the back foot. We start to build communication skills from when we are children, but it’s clear that not all adults have it all figured out. Pay attention to how you communicate during conflict and have a read of our Quick Tips to Improve Communication post.  

Problem-solving skills

Problem-solving skills are essential for effective leadership. They also come into play when mediating conflict. As a mediator, it’s important to take a look at the whole situation and analyse how all parties might be able to compromise and collaborate. Those involved are counting on you to road map them out of the situation.

Speaking of road maps, here are our guidelines to achieving resolution:

  1. Acknowledge the value and feelings of all parties involved. Don’t play favourites and steer away from biases.

  2. Ask and listen to all points of view. Make sure you get the whole story.

  3. Manage emotions as they arise. Keep things respectful and level-headed.

  4. Highlight the importance and benefit of resolution to the issue. Help them understand the bigger picture—i.e. this conflict can affect the work place environment and productivity.

  5. Offer your insight and an action plan. Keep it clear and simple.

  6. Negotiate this plan if necessary and get all parties on board.

  7. Follow up with how everyone is feeling in several days. Keep your ear to the ground for any hiccups.

As much as we would like to avoid conflict, it’s a natural ingredient in work relationships. Handle it effectively and it could make you, instead of break you.