Re­solv­ing con­flict in the work­place

Re­la­tion­ships must be func­tional if you hope to have a pro­duc­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

Los Angeles Times - - WORK LIFE - By Tom Fox

ex­plore each type.

Peo­ple want lead­er­ship roles for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, but the op­por­tu­nity to man­age con­flicts is rarely at the topof any­one’s list. It’s a skill that many have a hard time mas­ter­ing— and let’s face it, avoid­ing con­flict tends to be the first in­cli­na­tion for most of us.

Work­place con­flicts can emerge in any num­ber of forms, but there are some gen­eral, gar­den-va­ri­ety types that I see on a re­peated ba­sis: con­flicts with the boss, con­flicts with peers and con­flicts among a man­ager’s di­rect re­ports or team­mates.

In all of these cases, lead­ers need to con­sider two ba­sic ques­tions. How im­por­tant is the is­sue? And how im­por­tant is this re­la­tion­ship? Your an­swers will de­ter­mine whether to let it slide or try to re­solve it. Let’s

Con­flict with the boss

I have en­coun­tered a lot of peo­ple who have con­flicts with those in more se­nior po­si­tions, some­times be­cause their boss isn’t do­ing enough to sup­port the team or is do­ing too much mi­cro­manag­ing.

The re­la­tion­ship with your boss is ob­vi­ously im­por­tant for get­ting work done and for get­ting ahead. As a re­sult, you should in­vest the time needed to re­solve the con­flict. The key ques­tion then be­comes: What’s my role in the con­flict, and what can I do to im­prove the sit­u­a­tion?

While it’s easy (and maybe le­git­i­mate) to blame your boss, this un­for­tu­nately isn’t the most pro­duc­tive op­tion. If you ac­tu­ally want things to get bet­ter, you’ll need a dif­fer­ent ap­proach. Sched­ule a con­ver­sa­tion or a lunch so you can un­der­stand your boss’ goals and mo­ti­va­tions, ex­press your con­cerns and ex­plore ways to work bet­ter to­gether. Get­ting in­sight into your boss’ rea­son­ing and out­look may spark ideas about new tech­niques for han­dling the sit­u­a­tion.

Plus, the con­ver­sa­tion will send a clear sig­nal that you’re in­ter­ested in build­ing a bet­ter bond and re­solv­ing the ten­sion that ex­ists. Fi­nally, make it clear that you are quite will­ing to carry out any di­rec­tions be­ing given (as­sum­ing they are not im­moral or un­eth­i­cal), but that you would first like to sug­gest a bet­ter­way that can be help­ful.

Con­flict with a peer

In to­day’s work­ing world, very lit­tle hap­pens in iso­la­tion. You in­evitably rely on oth­ers to get things done. For bet­ter and worse, how­ever, we don’t all op­er­ate in the same ways, and so con­flict is in­evitable.

Oneof the best strate­gies I’ve heard for re­solv­ing con­flicts with a peer comes from Solly Thomas, a coach in some of the Part­ner­ship for Pub­lic Ser­vice’s lead­er­ship pro­grams. Thomas, a former govern­ment ex­ec­u­tive, sug­gests iden­ti­fy­ing a col­league who has an ef­fec­tive work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the peer who is giv­ing you prob­lems.

Make clear to the other col­league that your goal is to re­solve the con­flict and get work done, then tap into his or her knowl­edge of the other per­son for tips in get­ting along. Try out the ad­vice, and per­haps also tact­fully at­tempt to break the ten­sion by talk­ing with your col­league about pos­si­ble mid­dle ground.

Con­flicts among di­rect re­ports or team­mates

Lead­ers at nearly ev­ery level have been the un­com­fort­able wit­nesses to con­flicts among team­mates. Your choices are ba­si­cally to look away or jump into the fray.

If the con­flict is with peo­ple you su­per­vise, and you know they are not go­ing to re­act well, avoid­ing the con­flict is tempt­ing but in­ef­fec­tive. One of my col­leagues re­counted a sit­u­a­tion in a former of­fice when — af­ter spend­ing too much time avoid­ing a con­fronta­tion with a subor­di­nate who had a his­tory of caus­ing dis­rup­tion — he de­cided to have the dif­fi­cult con­ver­sa­tion with her. He made sure to fo­cus solely on the job-re­lated be­hav­iors and not im­ply mo­ti­va­tion. Still, she be­came irate and cursed at him be­fore storm­ing out of his of­fice. How­ever, the next day she gave him a let­ter of res­ig­na­tion. Con­flict re­solved.

As a leader, you want to al­low for a cer­tain amount of cre­ative ten­sion, but the mo­ment that con­flict be­comes coun­ter­pro­duc­tive, you need to act. Although the is­sues that cause con­flict vary in im­por­tance, your re­la­tion­ships to team­mates and the re­la­tion­ships among team­mates must be func­tional if you hope to have a pro­duc­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

One op­tion is to sit down with em­ploy­ees — sep­a­rately or to­gether — and make your-work-re­lated out­comes and be­hav­ioral ex­pec­ta­tions clear. Then treat the em­ploy­ees as adults and ask them to re­solve their dif­fer­ences. Let them know they will be held ac­count­able if they don’t. Fox is a vice pres­i­dent at the non­profit Part­ner­ship for Pub­lic Ser­vice. Heis guest con­trib­u­tor to the Wash­ing­ton Post’s On Lead­er­ship sec­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.