Many leaders turn the other way for a good reason when conflict arises. Conflict is unpleasant. Most people avoid disagreements at all costs because they cannot bear to be considered “that mean person,” or they fear saying something they’ll regret.
Instead, they ignore what’s going on, hoping it will somehow become less of a problem — or that someone else will handle it.
However, when leaders don’t dodge conflict, the team becomes stronger because employees receive the coaching needed to improve understanding and performance.
Having critical conversations takes practice. Sometimes the process is messy because the talks don’t always go as planned, but you must have these courageous conversations anyway.
How Leaders Approach Conflict at Work
Authentic leadership means facing conflict head-on in the workplace and finding ways to overcome it. It’s never easy to talk to people about their behavior or their work. Leaders who want to effectively deal with conflict in the workplace use these three strategies to cut through the dissonance:
- First, listen to all sides. Avoid constructing any narrative until you have heard and understood what’s going on. Make an educated decision only when you have all of the necessary information.
- Address the conflict. You’ll have to have to difficult conversations — about ethics, job performance, and even firing someone. Hiding from the responsibility of taking action allows the conflict to grow into unmanageable proportions or fester until the workplace becomes toxic.
- Decide on a solution, knowing that it won’t make everyone happy. Your job is to meet the firm’s goals. Use the company philosophy to guide your decisions as objectively as possible.
Leadership Advice When Making the Hard Decisions
Leaders who have learned to face conflict haven’t necessarily learned to like it.
Instead, they’ve developed a set of skills they rely on whenever they have to make a tough decision. These leaders:
- Encourage frequent two-way communication.
- Do not micromanage their people.
- Rely on their experience.
- Don’t ignore problems.
- Avoid letting urgency drive their actions.
Most of all, effective leaders see conflict as an opportunity rather than a problem. They use this opportunity to hold transformative discussions. Every courageous conversation is the result of meeting conflict head-on in the workplace.
Recruiters know the design firms are looking for leadership that is unafraid of transforming conflict into productive processes. Your skills are in high demand if you don’t dodge workplace conflict.
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