Why do so many of us cringe in the face of conflict? It's because the little kid part of us that looked up at those giants in our world (that means any adult) and knew they were big and we were small, and they would win and we would lose when it came to decision making, makes us feel....inadequate.
You have two choices: one is to smile into the face of conflict and say "Welcome to my world, let's get to know each other better" OR you can run and think that by running you can hide. But you can't; at least not for too long.
It is up to you, the entrepreneurs and leaders in your businesses to handle workplace conflict with grace and presence. Otherwise, and this is absolutely true, you can unknowingly create a toxic work environment and then, yikes, it gets really ugly because all the upsets go underground and well, the pollution then runs rampant.
So here are some ways to stay above the fray and yet, still be available to solve the issues as they show up:
- Clarity: Acknowledge the stress that comes with conflict and keep going. Let everyone know you are willing to let the conflict turn into an opportunity for creative thinking and growth.
- Stay neutral: Let the team handle the tensions by setting time aside to discuss and chew on the disagreements. Everyone will want to get you engaged. Be like the parent who says "I'm here if you start punching, otherwise figure it out yourselves."
- Have a stop watch: Give some guidelines and expect a decision within a matter of days. Conflict left to its own device will fester and grow into something bigger than the original upset was ever meant to be.
- Listen and translate: When the opposing parties are ready to talk give everyone the respect and room to say their part. Then respond by saying "I just want to be clear this is what you are saying" and then paraphrase what was just said.
- Flexibility: Let the new ideas that come from conflict resolution be instituted. It may not be exactly how you would do things; yet, the key is to help others find their sea-legs so next time and then the next time conflict comes knocking they are ready.
Now is the time for rewards. Make a public acknowledgement about how well your employees have handled a difficult situation. Praise and accolades after a tough stint goes a long way in helping others really feel great about what they have done and will be ready for what is next with less trepidation.