10 ways leaders can minimise conflict

Interaction is part of life. Diversity of personality is great for progressive development, but is also a point of regression. Effective decisions are the optimal result of people with different approaches. At the same time, the best idea is sentenced to failure when it is implemented by people who can’t stop bickering

This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on About Leaders

It is unlikely that any leader has never faced the challenge of keeping the team together. So, how can you minimise conflict?

Let it be

Suppressing emotion, and trying to avoid conflict entirely, will not help. Emotions cannot always just disappear by themselves and, eventually, bottling it up will lead to worse outcomes and heightened conflict. So, letting conflict happen will help you kill two birds with one stone. It will:

  • minimise the destructive influence of the conflict;
  • help to create an environment where people can air concerns, and prevent urgent organisational crises.

Reshape the idea of conflict

It is normal to perceive conflict as, ultimately, harmful; however, it is often a substantial precursor for learning how to handle different issues. Once you become aware of this, you will see the need for promoting self-expression among the team, even when their thoughts might seem wrong.

Along with this, emphasising the importance of listening is also key; you will then be able to provide the basis for constructive feedback and co-operation.

Define the rules of conflict

Many organisations pay significant attention to developing corporate culture, but often ignore the nature of conflict. When you dare to reshape your perception of conflict, you will see the urgent need for rules. Here you can involve different kinds of bans, depending on your personal vision and the staff’s characteristics.

It is, of course,  obligatory to prohibit brutality, foul language and personal insults – by the way, you can involve your employees in this part of the process. Discussion with your team members will give them more buy-in and also bring you to a better understanding of each individual’s needs.

Describe organisational roles

Each person in your organisation should know their roles and areas of responsibility. From one side it is the core factor for maintaining discipline in sharing duties and, from the other, it is about knowing everyone’s boundaries.

Restructure roles from time-to-time

Sometimes people assigned to a particular post show that they are more capable elsewhere.

Gone unnoticed, this person will be limited in professional performance, and will be stressed due to unrealised ambitions.

Being able to encourage team members to speak up, and asking regularly about their thoughts, can help minimise potential conflict in this area so it would be wise to reorganise roles as necessary.

Practice role exchange

Sometimes people think the grass is greener on the other side. Executives thinks that it is easier to assign than to do and some managers think completing the task is simpler than controlling multiple processes, and so on.

Let people try out different tasks and roles from time-to-time. This opportunity will help to identify potential aspects of conflict and such an approach can also help with recognising mistakes and promoting more co-operation.

Consider and handle interpersonal antagonisms

People are not robots; emotions often guide the mind. There are cases when the lead manager and CEO are incompatible; they speak the same language, are both excellent professionals, and experience ideal interaction with the rest of the staff. Yet they treat each other as foreigners.

No one specific measure would help you to make them co-ordinate successfully. Sometimes, the only way to change such a relationship is to minimise their communication.

Enhancing self-worth

Each person is capable of working with inspiration and devotion in moments of crisis if s/he knows they are meaningful to the organisation. Moreover, people with a high level of self-worth perceive critique and remarks more subtly, and think in a more constructive manner.

Authoritativeness, dominance and deprecation, which are often inherent to top management, underlies hostility, regardless of the objectivity of commands. Make  sure that the members of the board enhance the SEO’s self-worth rather than of undermining the personal achievement of staff.

Develop empathetic listening

Misunderstanding is fertile ground for rejection and conflict, and not listening is the precursor of misunderstanding. There is a difference between ‘hearing’ and ‘empathetic listening’. Both leaders and team members should be able to understand information and its context; the point is that people often hear what they want to hear. So, overcoming this barrier is the key to working in sync with each other.

Don’t ignore the WIIFM factor

It does not matter to what extent we are different; we often ask ourselves, “What’s in it for me?”.

Knowing what team members want to hear, and what they need in order to be motivated, will add value to your organisation.

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