The Top 5 Skills Every Manager Needs to Resolve Conflict
Many of us associate conflict with feelings like fear, shame, and frustration.
To avoid the discomfort of these feelings, we do our best to avoid conflict.
We go out of our way to be nice to people, we dismissively agree, or altogether avoid the conversation. But none of these behaviours are productive.
When conflict is avoided altogether, necessary feedback and ideas for improvement are lost.
Managers need to learn how to embrace conflict and manage it in a productive way to bring out conversation and new perspectives.
Effectively managed conflict strengthens teams because it creates innovative and collaborative discussion necessary for advancing a business’s success.
When managers can get their team to see conflict as a tool to exchange ideas while allowing each party to be equally heard, it becomes an effective form of communication rather than a fearful argument.
Conflict management is one of the hardest skills for managers. To help you master the art of conflict management, I’ve put together five must-have skills for your to lead your team successfully through conflict.
Table of Contents:
1. Use emotional intelligence in conflict resolution.
Your skills in emotional intelligence strongly correlate to your abilities to manage and resolve conflict.
Emotional intelligence defined as your ability to identify and manage your own emotions along with the feelings of others around you.
When you have a firm handle on emotional intelligence, you’re able to understand other people’s reactions.
Understanding other people’s reactions allows you to identify the emotions they’re feeling and why they’re feeling them, and how you can negotiate the situation given the emotional responses.
Emotional intelligence is divided into five categories:
- Internal Motivation - the drive to achieve goals for personal reasons rather than for rewards and recognition
- Empathy - the ability to identify with others while also relating with them and understanding their position
- Self Awareness - your understanding of yourself.
- Self - Regulation - your ability to understand your emotions and your impulses
- Sociability - this refers to your social skills and your ability to manage relationships effectively
All of these five factors play a key role in effectively navigating conflict.
Managing conflict successfully requires that you can relate to others, control your emotions, and successfully navigate social interactions.
For example, if someone says something you strongly disagree with self - regulation plays a key role in preventing you from flying off the handle and causing a toxic argument.
Understanding another person’s perspective is also beneficial when dealing with conflict as it allows you to see their side of the story and validate their viewpoints.
The overlap between what makes up emotional intelligence and the skills needed to navigate conflict shows that improved emotional intelligence is the first step to enhanced conflict resolution.
2. Take the time to understand your team members and what they need.
Understanding and managing different personalities at work is a vital skill to create an effective team.
When you have a firm understanding of your team members as individuals, you will be able to recognize their triggers and know how to calm them down or bring them out of their shells.
In short, the better you understand the various personalities on your team and how to interact with them, the better environment you will be able to provide your team members at work.
The best frame of reference for understanding various personality types on your team is the DISC tool.
The purpose of this psychometric tool is to give teams a common language to improve their understanding of one another and their communication skills with each other.
Within DISC, there are four different personality types:
The D style is a fast past and direct individual.
When you find yourself coming into conflict with a Dominant personality, keep these key points:
- When communicating with a Dominant personality, it is best to keep things short and to the point.
- Focus on objectives and what needs to be done.
- Dominant personalities also like to take charge, so give these individuals room to voice their opinions and concerns.
The I style loves people.
They’re very friendly, enthusiastic, charming, and energetic.
When coming into conflict with an, I style here are some key points to remember:
- Influential people love recognition, so don’t be afraid to praise them for an idea or opinion that they share with you or the team.
- These types of personalities feel social rejection and being ignored. Always be sure to acknowledge influential individuals and ensure they feel recognized within the team.
- Influential individuals are talkative and often have a lot to say. Ensure that you give them room to be heard and voice their comments and concerns.
Steady individuals tend to be slightly slower-paced than Ds and Is, but they’re very dependable and understanding them, making them a classic team player.
When you find you are experiencing conflict with a Steady person, keep these things in mind:
- Steady people want an environment of support and cooperation, so always take the time to thank an S personality for their work and make an effort to show you’re there to help them.
- Since Ss like to take more time, give them time and space to respond to your questions and concerns.
- Ss tend to avoid change, so be willing to give them space to process new things and show them you’re there to help them as they take on new roles.
The conscientious personality also likes to take their time, like an S, but they’re very analytical and data-driven people.
If you find you experience conflict with a conscientious individual, remember these tips:
- Cs are logical and systematic so give them time to analyze and describe their side of the story.
- Due to their data-driven nature, you want to show a C that you respect a problem’s objectiveness, so be sure to focus on the facts primarily.
- Conscientious personalities tend to isolate themselves and be overly critical of themselves. Involve them in conversation by asking them open-ended questions and praise their good ideas to help them recognize their strengths.
If you want to learn more about each DISC personality and what you, as a manager, can do to support each one in the workplace, check out my article: Understanding and Managing Different Personalities in the Workplace.
3. Establish team norms to ensure effective communication.
Team members need to understand how to talk to one another to navigate conflict successfully, and the best way to do that is to create rules of conflict for the entire team to follow.
The creation of these communication systems through conflict rules creates norms for team members to seamlessly communicate with.
When team members know what is expected of them and others, they will interact more naturally. In other words, when you establish rules of conflict, you give everyone common ground to stand one.
Here’s an example of a successful conflict rulebook that you can copy and use in your own team.
1. Encourage your team members always to be asking questions.
2. Don’t let your team members downplay minor issues. Otherwise, they’ll come back to bite you later.
3. Remind your team members to assume the best of each other when sending and receiving messages.
4. When there are bigger issues that need to be discussed, take the time to set up a meeting.
5. In the face of conflict, start with identifying the problem and then present the facts.
6. Be sure to set up an end goal that you want out of the discussion to prevent everyone from chasing their tails in circles.
7. Create a conflict ‘contract’ that everyone can sign to understand what each party needs to do to help each other.
8. Always follow-up with your team to ensure that a state of resolution was reached.
By creating conflict rules, you are strengthening your team dynamics by giving your team a psychologically safe place to interact in.
4. Be willing to make hard decisions.
With all the research, data, and tips on how to improve your conflict management skills, conflict management will always be one of your most difficult tasks as a manager.
Some conflicts you will navigate smoothly and find ways to comprise, ensuring everyone walks away happier. But, in other cases, you will be unable to please all parties.
When you’re not able to resolve conflict as smoothly as you’d like to, it’s important to remember your team’s dynamics and the business’s goals to come up with a solution with the most benefit per cost.
Here are a few tips to help you figure out what side to pick when making tough decisions evoked by conflict.
- Always keep your decisions aligned with company values.
- Use historical data and knowledge where necessary.
- Keep documentation of the problems, effects, the decision, and the consequences.
- Show that you’re willing to listen to questions and concerns, but also come prepared with counterpoints.
- Be the one to communicate the decision to all affected parties.
Although you will find decisions hard to make in the face of conflict, it’s always better to take action than allowing problems to fester.
When you reach a decision that benefits the team and the business, others will remember, and you’ll find increased trust and commitment from your team members.
5. Frame discussion objectively.
When faced with conflict, it’s important to remember to give team members space to express their emotions and to validate those feelings. Sometimes all team members need to understand that they’re heard.
But, emotions can’t be the basis for problem-solving. It is necessary to keep emotions under control and think and speak as objectively as possible in the workplace.
Use questions like, “What is the end goal of the project?” “What are the expectations of workplace conduct?” “How are measurable results being affected?” to reframe conflict discussion and keep it impartial.
It’s crucial to keep conflict focused on the problem so that discussion is not taken personally or offends others. By remaining objective in the discussion, effective problem solving and conflict resolution will be achieved.
In this article, you learned five steps to better resolve and manage conflict in the workplace.
You now know:
✔️ Why and how to use emotional intelligence when managing conflict
✔️ How to interact with different personalities effectively during times of conflict
✔️ The effectiveness of established communication norms in teamwork and how to create them on your team
✔️ The importance of being able to make tough decisions and tips on how to do so
✔️ The necessity of keeping conflict objective and fact-based.