Even when both sides have the best of intentions, conflict happens in business. And when it does, the repercussions could be dire for your employees, clients, and business partners.
What you don’t want to do is ignore the conflict, hoping it will abate on its own. Often when businesses do this, they find that they need a professional mediator to work it out.
According to West Coast Trial Lawyers, “The mediator’s job is to remain impartial and help the parties bridge their differences and come to an agreement. Both parties may speak to the mediator in private and both parties may speak to each other without worrying about saying something wrong. Nothing said during mediation can be used later in court. The goal is to reach a compromise on both sides and accept each other’s terms.”
But there are steps you can take before you call in the big guns. Here are the strategies to advancing toward solutions at work rather than staying mired in conflict.
Focus on the solutions and the end goal.
Conflict happens when a difference of opinion arises. Differences can be small, but when huge investments or the future of a company’s direction is on the line, the stakes are high.
When no one can agree on a course of action to take, it is time to regroup and refocus on the end game. Sometimes it takes restating your purpose for the meeting, or discussion, to get everyone back on the same page.
Get everyone thinking about the motivation for pushing forward. If needed, take a breather until everyone is once again clear on the common vision, and then take it from there.
Show that you value openness.
Differences of opinions can lead to business growth when they spark creative and unusual methods of approach. When people are open and flexible to different ways of working and operating, there’s little room for conflict.
Show that you are open to new ways of doing things. Do this by encouraging honest debate and feedback. And not automatically shooting down new ideas. Others will pick up on your approach and come to value openness, too.
Be patient and practice listening.
People can get stuck viewing a situation from one angle. It might take time to help them see things from a different perspective. And it’s that different perspective which can help resolve the conflict.
However, until others feel they have been heard, they will be unable to hear what you have to say. Now is the time to practice empathy in your listening.
Be patient and listen. Let the other person get everything off his or her chest. While you are listening, show them that you are hearing what they are saying. Avoid formulating a response as you listen. They will pick up on that.
Once they have fully unloaded and feel they have been heard, they will be much more open to listening and hearing what you have to say.
Look for commonalities.
Where does your opinion intersect with the other person’s? This is the cross-section where the solutions to your situation can be nurtured.
If the discussion gets heated, bring it back to your points of agreement. And work to expand this area. Perhaps you like the other person’s ideas in a certain area but disagree with the practical implementation. Focus on what you like about the other person’s approach and see how it can fit larger goals.
Just because you focus on what you do agree on, does not mean you should become a pushover when it comes to aspects of the business you can’t compromise in. Know what you are willing to be flexible in, and the areas where you will stand firm.
Your manners matter.
When conflict arises at work, it can be easy for emotions to get involved and to feel a personal stake in “winning” an argument or a debate. But the fact is, this is work and not your personal life. “Winning” at work is simply about what is best for the company as a whole. Take your ego out of it.
An easy way to remember this as you discuss issues with your team is to remember that you and they are people first. Career and work come second.
Keep in mind that you will be seeing them around the office and it could be awkward or comfortable. And that depends on how much you invest in keeping it civil, even in the middle of work-related conflicts.