By Miranda Lindsey, Volunteer.
Every group, big or small, will naturally have conflicts that arise because individual people within a group want different things, know different things, and have different beliefs about the right thing to do. A good leader accepts that resolving conflicts is a difficult part of their job, and tries to manage the conflict to improve group performance. In your career, you may be in a team setting or in a leadership position. If you want to perform well in your role, it is important to develop conflict resolution skills to help maintain the efficiency of your group.
The first step in conflict resolution is to identify the cause of the conflict. Different causes require different solutions. There can be many different causes to a workplace conflict, including personal conflict, poor scheduling, unequal distribution of work, communication failures, etc. One very common cause is the lack of a common goal within the group. Every group needs to have a clear, shared goal to work well together, but leaders sometimes fail to define and clearly communicate that goal to the group. This leads to chaos, as every team member develops different goals and works in different directions.
Another common cause of conflict is when people in the group want different things. This may require a new agreement in which everyone in the group can get what they want and be in a better situation. Including everyone in the solution-finding process will also make them more motivated to implement the solution.
The most important action a leader can take is to be persistent in trying to find a positive solution. Without proper leadership, the team may be inclined to settle for a quick, incomplete solution leaving everyone worse off. The leader must push people to keep looking for the solution that helps everyone.
A leader should not assume that they already know everything about the conflict. Instead, they should ask questions and listen closely to the answers. This will help the leader come up with a solution that serves everyone’s interests. The most common mistake leaders make is using power to try and eliminate conflict rather than trying to resolve it. For example, if a leader threatens punishment for complaining or talking about the conflict, the leader has not found a solution. Rather, they have ensured that no one is talking about the conflict in front of the leader, which allows the conflict to persist.
There are some situations in which a leader is not the proper person to seek a solution to the conflict. Perhaps the leader may be too emotionally involved or doesn’t have the trust of the group members. If this is the case, the leader must be willing to admit they need help and bring in a trusted outsider to act as a go-between.
Leaders must be prepared for conflict, persistent in searching for a positive solution, and always try to use the creative minds of many people and the skills of outsiders to help resolve conflicts when necessary.
Conflict resolution is an extremely valuable and useful skill to have and develop throughout any career, and is even applicable in situations outside of the workplace.
The information in this blog post is sourced from the Conflict Resolution course available to all Suited for Change clients through SFC’s partnership with Edge.
Clients are able to access these modules at no cost at the “Client Resources” page on Suited for Change’s website. Following completion of each module, clients are provided a professional certificate of completion which they can share with companies on their resume to demonstrate their knowledge of conflict resolution techniques.
About Miranda Lindsey:
Miranda Lindsey is a SFC volunteer and a recent graduate of the Master of International Affairs program at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. She is passionate about service, and excited about the positive impact she can make in her community through her work with SFC.