To think you can create a work environment without conflict is futile. Conflict is a part of all office environments and if managed correctly can be the basis on which your team feels they have the ability to express themselves. Much energy is spent on conflict resolution. The problem with this focus is that it is very short sided. Conflict happens because people have different views on an issue. If you create an environment where people can engage in unprofessional conflict like yelling and screaming you have lost control of your ship. Where as creating guidelines for conflict will lead to open discussion, idea sharing and in the end conflict resolution if positioned correctly.
Rules for Collective Conflict Resolution
1. Require that all team members subscribe to the rules before a conflict arises.
2. Take time to breathe. Many statements made in the heat of the moment are not productive. We have all heard people say that they have said things they did not mean when they were mad. All too often personal emotions, not solid ideas are conveyed in the heat of the moment. When conflict begins, require the team to go back to their corners to think and prepare a written statement. (Note: If both parties are not aware that a problem exists, then ask the player bringing the conflict to go to step #3 first. You will then ask the player bringing the conflict to read their statement to the other party as noted in step #3. You will then need to allow 24 hours for the other party to cool down and prepare their side of the conflict. DO NOT let the person hearing the statement just start responding verbally. Make them go to step #3. You want people to think.)
3. Prepare a statement. Ask your players in the conflict to prepare a brief, yet detailed statement of their position on the matter at hand. Be specific, but do not be offensive. IMPORTANT: Have an answer to the issue at hand. Require that each party bring back their version of what the best resolution or idea to resolution is. Complaints without ideas for a solution are not allowed.
4. State the facts. Conflicts based on hearsay must be thrown out. Unless an individual has facts to back up their allegations or ideas, basing opinions on hearsay is not allowed.
5. Clearly state the complaint. If the person that is beginning the conflict is not willing to clearly state the issue, throw the complaint/conflict off the table.
6. Require each party to clearly state how they feel the problem should be resolved.
7. 24 hours later bring both parties together.
a. Meet in private
b. Ask if either party wants to just drop the issue
c. Ask each party to read their statement
d. Then again ask if either party wants to just drop the issue.
e. Require each party to say what they agree with in response to the other person’s statement.
f. Require each party to say if they are any points they disagree with, but understand in response to the other person’s statement.
g. As a group see if anything in the statements can benefit the organization. Is the conflict based on an issue related to customer service for example or an issue based on work issues between departments?
h. Require each party to acknowledge one thing that the other party brings to the team. I.e. Creativity, team spirit, organization. These things do not have to relate to the conflict.
i. Next… require each person to say, “If you would just _____ I would appreciate it and we can conclude this conflict.”
j. Now, ask both parties to shake hands and ask if they have anything further.
k. Last you may want to add their statements to a personnel file. This is your call. I keep a file on each employee that contains good, bad and indifferent issues for future reference.
Conflict happens, but you can connect further with your team by actively engaging in the conflict and using the conflict to grow your relationship with all parties involved. Out of conflict some of the best ideas are born. Do not just brush off conflict or force people to just “get over it”. Conflict, like a wound, left untreated will get worse. Active engagement in conflict resolution and having a set guideline for resolution can yield solid results for all involved. People will feel like they can express themselves and not be punished as long as they express themselves in a constructive way geared toward resolution.
Ryan Dohrn works as a General Manager of HorseCity.com for Morris Communications Company, LLC in Augusta, GA. Ryan Dohrn gives insights on how you, as a manager, can inspire greatness, fix problems, meet goals and increase the overall productivity of your team without being a jerk. The content of this blog is the private work of Ryan R. Dohrn and not that of Morris Communications Company, LLC. All rights reserved, copyright 2005- Ryan R. Dohrn. Please share this blog with others. But, permission to reproduce all or parts of this blog for profit must be granted in writing by the author. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org An Atom formatted XML site feed of Ryan's blog can be found at: http://ryandohrn.blogspot.com/atom.xml