Employee (raised voice): “There is STILL favoritism from certain managers to certain employees. You said you were going to be able to stop it! It’s as bad as it’s ever been! What are you going to do about it?”
Me (calm and quiet voice): “Are we fighting?”
Employee (confused): “No, why?”
Me (smiles): “Oh good, I just wasn’t sure why you’re yelling at me. Want to talk about favoritism?”
Employee (starts laughing): “Yes!”
Me (smiling): “Can we do it without yelling?”
Employee (smiling): “Yes”
Me (smiling): “Great, tell me your perspective.”
Conflict can erupt or it can reach a full boil slowly over time.
Regardless of how it arrives here are 4 things I do for managing conflict:
1. Gather Perspective
Perspective is one of the most powerful tools in reducing initial conflict or avoiding it all together. Different perspectives are usually at the root of the conflict. But the fact that the perspectives are different isn’t the cause of conflict. Not having perspective acknowledged is.
We are all entitled to our own opinion and perspectives. Most of us would like that perspective to be at least heard if not agreed with or validated. Letting a person know their perspective has been heard can dial back the conflict instantly!
2. Ask a Question
If not to lighten the mood (as was my intention with the exchange above), the question will help bring clarity. Pushing pause on the emotions of the situation and finding the factual cause of the conflict, without focusing on the emotional behavior that often accompanies it, is often a good a step towards managing conflict.
3. One Thing at a Time
Only focus on the event. Don’t get pulled into the weeds of cause and effect. What was the catalystic event? Identifying it provides an opportunity to ensure it won’t happen again or at least put expectations in place so everyone understands the outcome if it does.
If you don’t outline expectations moving forward you may as well not have dealt with the conflict in the first place. Informing all involved what they can expect moving forward provides an opportunity for a better outcome.
Not a Magic Wand, but a Great First Step
These four tools are not a magic wand of conflict removal, but they are effective in managing, reducing, and if all goes well remove conflict for that moment. By using them on an ongoing basis new habits are formed resulting in less frequent and less severe conflict.