The 5 Conflict Management Techniques That Managers Must Recognize
Collaboration Is Key to Conflict Resolution
Managers are responsible for both task and people management. The first responsibility is centered on process. The second is much more difficult to achieve, because it necessitates that the manager manages personalities.
Personality clash is a major cause of workplace conflict. A survey conducted by Workplace Options found that 56% of respondents said that personality clashes with colleagues are a source of conflict.
As a manager it is your responsibility to manage conflict in the workplace. You cannot leave it to colleagues in conflict to work out their differences themselves. If you do, the tension and conflict will worsen – because the personalities that caused the conflict will determine ineffective response to the conflict.
Understanding that personality influences how people handle conflict will help managers understand why conflict must be managed and not self-managed.
Nature, Nurture, and Conflict Management
An individual’s personality is shaped by nature and nurture. As we grow, our personality evolves as to the values and behaviors of those around us – and manifests itself in our unconscious biases. It also shapes how we handle conflict.
For some people, walking away from volatile situations is natural. For others, a ‘stand up and be counted’ attitude is the approach they will naturally take. Others may wish to sit down calmly and compromise.
In the workplace, when colleagues fall into conflict a range of different conflict handling techniques will come into play. Personality determines conflict handling, and the behavior of one person in response to conflict will be alien to another.
How People Handle Conflict
There are five behaviors that are generally associated with how people handle conflict.
Those who wish to avoid conflict simply walk away from it. This may work for a short time, but it means that the reason for the conflict is not explored and will remain unresolved. If left unaddressed, the situation could deteriorate.
Avoidance often means that colleagues must fill in for their co-worker who has taken avoiding action. This could breed resentment and cause productivity to fall.
A hyper-competitive personality wishes to win at all costs. They will assert their views on the group, and the danger is that this will lead to bullying behavior. It may also induce frustration among those who feel bullied and increase competition within the team – which worsens the conflict.
Instead of discussing multiple points of view and putting forward their perspective, an accommodating person will bend to the will of others. The frustration of the accommodating person is not aired fully, but will persist, nevertheless. Assertive people begin to expect that their views will always be those that are put into action. Good ideas and innovation deteriorate.
The aim of compromise is to reach a solution that is deemed to be fair by all. No one gets their own way entirely, with all making some sacrifice. The problem with compromise is that the solution agreed may not be the most effective.
Compromise is still based upon competition and may still endure a struggle between personalities.
In the collaborative approach, each colleague is given the opportunity to express their needs. In this way, a complete picture is achieved. Colleagues then work together to meet these needs as completely as possible. This relies on a culture of openness and honesty, in which good communication ensures understanding.
Managing Conflict Effectively
The manager plays a critical role in conflict management. It is essential that managers provide clear and specific instruction without micromanaging.
When conflict arises – as it will – a manager must listen with intent, understand the issues, and remain impartial and professional. Resolution meetings should be with all parties involved in the conflict, to avoid accusations of favoritism or bias.
The manager should facilitate a collaborative approach, steering people away from their natural conflict response techniques. For most managers, the ability to do this begins with a deeper self-awareness and coaching to improve emotional intelligence – to know others, know yourself first.
Conflict management strategies are among the most important skills for managers and leaders to develop. To learn how Forward Focus facilitates better conflict management by your leaders and managers, contact us today.