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Even in the best of times, conflict occurs amongst individuals on your teams. Triggers abound such as personality differences, competition, egos and lack of accountability.
Then the wild, crazy and unexpected 2020 happened. I witnessed leaders who sailed through the pandemic unscathed, who are now exhibiting the aftereffects of exhaustion, impatience and burnout. This is the time that unanticipated conflicts occur.
The good news is that conflict can be either avoided with early detection or resolved through awareness, desire, clear honest communication and owning one’s actions.
Let us dive a little deeper into the top sources of workplace conflict that you may be experiencing.
Poor management leads to conflict throughout your organization. Few people feel qualified or have the courage to question their top leaders. Instead, everybody suffers the consequences of inaction. Results of poor management are high turnover, low employee morale, low productivity, high stress and blame.
A healthy work environment requires that leaders at all levels need to be held accountable. Their words and actions are important. Employees need to feel safe to provide feedback, suggestions and call attention to upper- level inefficiencies.
Leadership conflicts in which different leaders have differing styles. Some leaders may be direct in wanting only quick, ‘bottom-line’ communications. Others may be curious, open and inclusive. The latter explores ideas and solutions, asks questions, takes time to listen and make decisions.
To avoid conflict, masterful leaders tailor their style to varying individuals and circumstances. For example, direct leaders may need to be patient at times to get the results they desire. Inclusive leaders will need to discern whether time allows for them to explore all options.
Personality conflicts are the most reported problems in the workplace. And one of the most challenging topics for my clients. Personality conflicts are tough as they often occupy too much of your headspace outside of work, which flows into your personal life. Left unchecked they lead to a toxic work environment.
When you have a conflict with a coworker, it is important to talk to someone but not other coworkers. That creates polarization. As close as you are to your coworkers, they have their own challenges to solve.
Talk with HR, an outside coach, mentor or friend who will be honest with you. I find that family members will take your side, which does not help you see the role you may play in the conflict. To move forward and avoid future conflicts it is important to own your part of the dispute. Doing so will prevent a recurrence.
Never respond immediately to the person who has irritated you. Give it time and space to allow all involved to clear their heads and uncover possible underlying issues.
One of the best ways to conquer personality conflicts is to find time outside of work to connect for a meal, beverage, walk or hike. Talk about anything other than work — sports, interests, hobbies, education, kids, movies, what brought you each to this city, company.
For example, I encouraged two recent client coworkers who could not even look at each other in meetings to go to a pub, talk about anything other than work and enjoy a beer. They soon learned they are both passionate about fishing. Finding similarities bonds us.
Conflicting modes of communication. A common complaint with an easy solution. When you enter a new workspace, ask those around you — including your boss, direct reports and others — how they best communicate.
As you know, some prefer quick texts, some phone calls, others message boards or other in-house methods of communication. Texts or emails over three lines can be a source of irritation resulting in the recipient simply not reading it.
Most new leaders I have coached want everyone to know their communication style. While this is also important, it validates those around you to simply ascertain their preferred communication style.
Disagreements are difficult to deal with and much easier to ignore with hopes that they will go away. While some do resolve on their own, most need attention sooner rather than later.
Conflict resolution involves awareness, honest communication, accountability, clear communication, action and follow-up. Compassion and empathy also go a long way.
I hope your work environment is conflict-free. If, however, some do exist, I challenge you to open your eyes and employ one of the strategies I have laid out. Wishing you tremendous success.
Executive & Leadership Coach Ann Golden Eglé, MCC, has steered successful individuals to greater levels of success since 1998. Ann is President of Golden Visions & Associates, LLC, can be reached at 541-385-8887, email@example.com or GVAsuccess.com. Subscribe to Ann’s internationally acclaimed ‘Success Thoughts’ e-zine on her website.