How To Master Conflict Meetings

Conflict at work is an inevitability. With so many different personality types among team members, numerous thought processes, and even poor management, conflict can manifest itself in a number of ways. Unfortunately, conflict can occur during everyday operations or even during meetings themselves, creating a bit of a conundrum for management.

As a business owner or manager, conflict resolution lies squarely on your shoulders, and one of the most effective methods for settling these issues is with a conflict meeting. You can ensure that conflict doesn’t derail fruitful discussions, projects, or other integral business processes through a multipronged approach to managing conflict. Find out how to settle conflicts in an efficient, effective manner to keep employee engagement, morale, and camaraderie at a maximum.

Why Conflict Occurs in the Workplace

Man trying to mediate a conflict meeting

Whether digital or in-person, conflict in the workplace occurs for a myriad of reasons. Conflicts often start as simple disagreements. But over time, they can escalate into an open, negative dialogue between one or more team members that can impede productivity.

Regrettably, conflict isn’t rooted in a particular source. Several different issues arise that may cause everyday conflicts or meeting conflicts to build. However, identifying the source is paramount to conflict management and resolution.

Even the most attentive manager can still have issues with team conflict, so recognizing the origin of conflict can lead to faster resolution and put less of a drain on your whole team.

A Clash of Personalities

Whether you have 10 people or 100 people on your team, not everyone is going to get along. That’s OK—you shouldn’t expect them to. Coworkers don’t necessarily have to become friends, but they do need a mutual respect in the workplace.

How to Avoid It: One way to avoid this common clash of personalities—also known as relationship conflict—is to steer clear of favoritism and bias. By treating everyone the same, considering both sides of a conflict, and proactively assessing potential conflict, you can stop this conflict before it starts.

Poor Communication

“Effective teamwork begins and ends with communication.” - Mike Krzyzewski, former Duke men’s basketball coach and the winningest coach in college basketball history

You aren’t guiding a team to the national championship, but Coach K’s wisdom departs an important mantra. Everything centers around communication. Without proper, clear communication, conflict lurks around every decision you make.

The issue is that most people—managers included—think that they’re top-notch communicators. While this may be true to some degree, people communicate differently. It’s up to the manager to decode everyone’s communication type and create clear, concise directions and overall communication.

How to Avoid It: Create clear messages in everything you do, whether it’s a team meeting, email, or instant message. Moreover, use active listening and feedback to understand if your communication is on par or whether you’re missing the mark.

Lack of Transparency in Job Expectations

When you hire a team member, you lay out an in-depth list of duties along with a description of the job itself. However, you shouldn’t let this get swept under the proverbial rug. Within these documents, you can find something that every employee needs: job expectations.

While job expectations are dynamic, they hold the key to conflict aversion. Much like communication, the more specific you are with respect to expectations, the less likely that conflict will arise over time.

How to Avoid It: Lay out clear job expectations from day one, including expectations of job duties, employee behavior, and expectations from management.

These aren’t the only aspects that lead to conflict, but they’re certainly ones to keep an eye on. Become a facilitator of communication and expectation, and you can reasonably assess and resolve conflict before it begins.

What Is a Conflict Meeting?

Conflict meeting between workers

Intuitive managers can’t avoid conflict all the time—even if they know the symptoms and sources of the conflict and ways to avoid it. That’s when a conflict meeting becomes integral.

Also known as a conflict-resolution meeting, a conflict meeting is a type of formal or informal meeting that allows both parties to air their grievances. As a mediator, the manager listens to both sides of the argument, identifies the conflict, and resolves the problem.

An Easy Template for a Conflict Meeting

If you’re new to a conflict meeting or you need a quick refresher, a template can help you sort your agenda and provide more efficiency to conflict resolution. This is a superb starting point, but tweak this as necessary to meet your goals and resolve the problem satisfactorily.

  • Begin by identifying the conflict. This is where you listen to both sides of the situation and pose follow-up questions. The questions you ask during this segment should clarify the situation to help you assess the conflict. But remember that more than one issue may exist based on how the two parties answer the question.
  • Consider solutions to the problem. This part of the meeting can go through several different routes depending on your company. You can come up with your own solution and gain approval from both sides, allow both parties to brainstorm with you, follow your company’s outlined protocol, or get help from HR.
  • Decide on a viable solution. After you brainstorm, decide on a solution. This isn’t always easy—but then again—management is all about having to make those tough decisions from time to time. Make sure that you get the solution in writing, that both parties agree to it, and gather signatures for the sake of accountability and documentation.
  • Follow up. Schedule a follow-up with both of your team members on an individual basis to get an accurate assessment of how the resolution is working. You can also ask for any opinions on how to make the situation even better. If necessary, set an additional meeting to resolve any lingering bitterness or other issues.

Pro Tip: Build your conflict-resolution skill set. Communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, time management, emotional intelligence, and active listening are integral to solving issues. Consistently working to improve these aspects only allows you to become a better mediator as a business owner or manager.

Further Conflict Meeting Considerations

Before you begin a conflict meeting, you may also want to pore over a few other considerations to maximize its problem-solving potential. Some other aspects may include:

  • How many people do you want at your meeting? Should you meet with the entire team or employ a one-on-one conflict meeting? You may also want to separate the two parties to get both points of view before you proceed to an in-person affair.
  • Lay out some ground rules beforehand. Discuss what constitutes appropriate behavior before the meeting starts to avoid a shouting match or an accusatory battle.
  • Decide how to conduct your follow-up. Should you hold another meeting or is a simple email or direct message a more viable alternative?
  • Consider whether your company should consider a training program to help managers and employees avoid conflict or practice conflict resolution. This might include leadership training programs, soft skills training programs, or anti-bias and diversity training programs.

The Other Type of Conflict Meeting: Scheduling Conflicts

Person using a calendar to schedule a meeting.

Another type of conflict worth mentioning is something that’s less severe, but still equally as important to your operational efficiencies: meeting conflicts.

A meeting conflict is a situation where you need to have a meeting but all the important parties can’t attend. Like conflicts in the workplace, a scheduling conflict is fairly common, so knowing how to adjust is integral—especially in remote and hybrid workplaces.

Scheduling meetings is difficult for numerous reasons, including:

  • Last-minute personal issues
  • Less time for meetings during busy times at work or the holidays
  • Lack of a flexible schedule among employees or management

Other issues may also arise that make a realistic meeting time harder to decipher. As a result, flexibility is tantamount to success.

How To Resolve a Scheduling Conflict

Don’t let a scheduling conflict cause you undue stress. Remember that it’s going to happen from time to time, and the only way to overcome it is to ensure that you have the tools and know-how to resolve it. More than anything else, schedule your meeting as early as possible to get feedback on schedules and times. With this information, you can always reschedule.

If you’re at a loss, try a few of these methods:

  • Use an organizational or scheduling tool such as Google Calendar. All of your employees can input their availabilities, and you’ll get notifications as to whether they’re able to attend a certain meeting.
  • Automate your meetings with scheduling tools and apps that can auto-schedule them when people are all available at the same time.
  • Schedule routine meetings so there are no surprises.

Scheduling conflicts only arise from a lack of preparation. The more you’re prepared for mandatory meetings, the less you’ll have to reschedule—it’s one of the cornerstones of holding an effective meeting.

Boost Your Management Skills by Addressing Conflict Early

Like many issues within an office or business, the earlier you can address conflict, the more you can diminish any lingering effects.

But this all starts with your skill set, perceptiveness, and to some degree, fearlessness in managing conflict. Armed with active listening, an unbiased approach, and no hesitation to address the situation head-on, you should have a fighting chance to reduce the incidence of conflict or make a conflict meeting an efficient way to make your company a better place to work.

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