Conflict Intervention, Resolution Test of Effective Leadership

Winnipeg Free Press, March 2, 2013 | Go to article overview

Conflict Intervention, Resolution Test of Effective Leadership


Being able to snuff out the lit fuse of a workplace conflict before it becomes an explosive situation is a true test of leadership.

Every workplace has its share of conflict. In any setting where people are engaged, committed and passionate about what they do, disagreements are inevitable. It means people care enough to disagree strongly. Change also brings conflict. Therefore, it's fair to say that the best organizations aren't those without conflict, but those that know how to deal with conflict in a healthy, constructive way. This is where effective leadership comes in.

A good leader should be able to recognize and understand when two colleagues are able to work toward resolution on their own and when a conflict requires intervention. Any clash that disrupts office harmony or poses a threat to other employees must be immediately managed. If a conflict is occurring frequently or appears to be escalating, intervention is absolutely necessary.

Waiting for such a problem to blow over is not part of the profile of a great leader. By avoiding or refusing to address conflict it will likely grow into resentment. By sweeping it under the rug, you are risking lost productivity, repressed creativity and creating impediments to cooperation and collaboration. Perhaps most detrimental, however, is the chance that good talent will choose to walk away from your organization in favour of a healthier, calmer and safer work environment.

Because conflict is a normal part of any workplace, the challenge lies in how to effectively deal with it.

Here are some tips for handling conflicts in a proactive and productive manner:

Seek out areas of potential conflict. This is not to say go looking for trouble, but spend time identifying and understanding where tensions might flair up so that you might be able to intervene quickly or prevent conflict from arising.

Open up communication with employees. Interestingly, 90 per cent of conflicts at work do not come from something that was said, but something that was not said. Don't assume that their silence means satisfaction. Instead, give your people an outlet to speak their mind early and often so that potential conflict can be nipped in the bud.

Figure out what is at stake. It may not appear to be a major issue to you, but it certainly is to them - and if the issue is important enough to create conflict, it is important enough to step in and resolve. Acknowledging their frustration and fears is a step toward finding a solution.

Intimidation is not the answer. …

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