dr carl robinson
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The Currency of Success - Interpersonal Intelligence™

13 Steps for Effectively Navigating Conflict

Conflict is a natural occurrence within any dynamic organization. In fact, a dearth of conflict should be viewed as a warning sign, potentially indicating indifference, evasion of conflict, or passive aggression – all of which can be detrimental to an organization. Those who are effective, both on an individual level and within organizational contexts, are those who learn to skillfully navigate conflict, rather than evading it. Remarkably, innovative solutions to intricate and demanding problems often emerge from the ability to tolerate and constructively manage disagreements in a civilized manner.

Outlined below are 13 recommendations for adeptly managing conflict:

  1. Take a proactive stance. Address issues before they escalate. Engage your colleagues or subordinates with questions like, “How are we progressing? How can I contribute to enhancing our collaborative effectiveness?”
  2. Pre-establish protocols for conflict resolution. In environments where creativity thrives, conflict is both anticipated and essential. Hence, it’s crucial to prepare for effective conflict management. Regard these protocols as fundamental guidelines for conduct within and beyond the team. Don’t wait for conflicts to arise before establishing these rules.
  3. Address individuals directly. Whenever possible, bypass involving a third party (typically a superior). This form of involvement is termed triangulation. Triangulation involves enlisting a third party to side with you on an issue, as an attempt to shirk responsibility. This practice impedes direct issue resolution.
  4. If you hold an executive role, be vigilant about unintentionally exacerbating conflicts between executives. Encourage and mandate direct interactions among executives and their peers as a prerequisite for executive team participation. Your intervention should be the final recourse.
  5. Keep private disputes confidential. Elevating private disagreements into the public sphere intensifies tensions, as issues become increasingly defensive when exposed to scrutiny.
  6. Limit discussions to those directly involved. If a participant raises a matter involving an absentee team member, halt the conversation immediately. Postpone further deliberation out of respect for the absent team member.
  7. Emphasize factual discussions. All parties involved in a conflict should be equipped with factual information. Preparedness encourages the debate of critical matters based on data, rather than emotions. A well-informed conversation about critical issues is advantageous.
  8. Generate multiple alternatives when conflicts emerge. Contemplate four or five options, including those you might not personally endorse. The presence of multiple choices diffuses conflict and reduces the likelihood of team members polarizing around just two possibilities.
  9. Foster team alignment to enhance effectiveness and mitigate needless conflict. This entails addressing four specific aspects:
  • Strategic and operational objectives
  • Roles and responsibilities of team members
  • Ground rules for group conduct
  • Recognition and embrace of diverse personal interaction styles
  1. Conduct a formal alignment session with your team. Evaluate your team’s grasp of the four alignment elements from the previous point. Furnish any necessary information to eliminate ambiguity.
  2. Determine decision-making authority upfront. This proactive step diminishes the occurrence of conflicts, or at the very least, empowers individuals to assert, “This decision rests with me.”
  3. Value diversity. Cultivate the ability to comprehend and respond to varied personality styles. People are most responsive when they feel understood and respected. Develop an appreciation for differences. Similar to the natural world, a diversity of opinions and styles yields superior outcomes.
  4. Strive for consensus when navigating conflicts. However, if consensus proves elusive, delegate the decision to the most relevant senior leader, informed by input from others. This approach fosters perceptions of fairness and equity.

Rather than waiting for contentious issues to escalate into larger problems, many individuals tend to confront them directly. This is known as conflict aversion or avoidance. Effective leaders empower their team members to adeptly navigate conflicts. Envision a dynamic workplace where individuals engage in civil debates on significant matters. Such an environment doesn’t materialize serendipitously; it necessitates practice and discipline.