Managing Conflict – Leadership Tips

 In Conflict Resolution, Management

Managing Conflict – Leadership Tips

coursedetailsEmployees need to be able to resolve workplace conflicts effectively. To achieve their goals, organisations need collaboration between employees. However, disagreements and misunderstandings can lead to a team’s inability to complete tasks effectively and efficiently.

Most managers spend a lot of time dealing with employees’ conflicts. Although addressing employee-related conflict is an expected part a manager’s job, it can be reduced dramatically if it is done well. Changes in the management of employees can reduce conflict resolution time to zero. Managers and employees can use a behavioural approach to workplace conflict resolution to help identify the causes of conflicts and then find solutions.

It is possible to apply the science of behaviour directly to workplace problems. Employees can identify conflict-producing behaviours by objectively examining their behaviour. This is what the article Pinpointing, Objectivity and Achieving alignment explains.

istockphoto xConflict Management is best approached with behaviour in mind

  • Positive reinforcement is often the catalyst for conflict. Conflict at work escalates and continues. The parties are receiving some reinforcement to continue the argument or disagreement.
  • Any behaviour that persists or grows is being reinforced. Although conflict participants may call the situation aversive or undesirable, they will not deny that positive reinforcement is the root of an ongoing argument or disagreement.
  • When people start to understand how their behaviour keeps the conflict going, they can see how other behaviours and sometimes even solutions can help to end the conflict.
  • It is important to recognise that conflict can be resolved at work by changing behaviour.
  • Conflict can increase emotional reactions, making it difficult to know where you should start. Emotional responses can obscure important events. Conflict resolution is best done between two or more employees.

Tips for leaders to manage conflict

1. Analyse your Conflict Style.

Ask trusted people for feedback on how you handle conflict. Be direct and constructive in addressing conflict. Try to understand the resistance that you and others might have in dealing with conflict situations.

2. Take into account your needs, not your solutions.

While people might disagree on the best solution, they can agree that one is necessary to help the focus shift from creative problem-solving to seeking consensus. Avoid the temptation to ignore consensus-building in search of the right solution. This may temporarily bury conflict.

3. Learn to understand others first

Try to understand the points of view of others before you try to explain your own. Take what you have heard and summarize it until you are able to understand others’ thoughts, feelings, perspectives.

4. Use dialogue and discussion appropriately.

One follows the other logically: A allows you to use divergent thinking to explore, ask questions and understand – without having to decide or exclude options. A involves convergent thought: finding a solution through negotiation, analysis, consideration of trade-offs.

5. Depersonalise the Conflict

Conflict can be viewed as disagreements about ideas, goals, methods, or personality, rather than about style or personality. These are more difficult to resolve. Reach agreement on areas of disagreement and focus on a common goal.

6. Encourage others to voice their opinions constructively

Encourage others to voice their opinions in a non-intimidating and constructive manner. Take what you have heard and organise it into a summary. Then, facilitate discussion until all thoughts and feelings are understood.

Essential Skills for Managing Conflicts

  • Radical listening

You will be challenged and criticised as a leader. You will be misunderstood and you won’t want to listen when this happens. Listening is your best defense. This is the moment when you want to defend, educate, and defend the other person.

  • Name the behaviour that is observable

When you assume, conflict is inevitable.

An assumption is only an interpretation, and it is not grounded in reality.

  • You can take ownership

A manager will be confused if they have to correct a long-standing problem. Sometimes the problem is inherited by the manager, but other times the disruptive behaviour has been accepted and has become the norm.

The entire team had been meeting at the coffee shop before working hours. However, coffee time has turned into productivity time which has led to lateness and missed client calls.

Next, you must take responsibility. Most employees won’t feel threatened if you “own” the problem and offer a fresh start.


Identify the actions and reactions that cause emotional reactions. A situation that causes a negative reaction or response from another person is called conflict. Although the effect is often emotional, it’s important that the supervisor or manager has the individuals involved in the conflict identify the specific words, gestures, facial expressions, and body positions that provoke a negative reaction from the other. Conflicts are by nature emotional. Instead of focusing on the cause or interpretation of motive and intent, try to focus on objective behaviour.

Keep your eyes on the future. Yesterday is history. It can’t be changed. It is possible to change problematic behaviour, but it is not easy. Instead, focus on the behaviours that are most productive and the behaviours that will help prevent future misunderstandings.

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