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While managers have a variety of responsibilities, the most critical one involves keeping teams working together effectively. An effective team reflects positively on the manager and provides value to the organization. When diverse viewpoints and personalities collaborate, innovative ideas emerge that can give a company competitive advantage. But sometimes collaboration turns to conflict. A manager needs to take immediate action to stop a conflict before the conflict stops the team.
Gather the Facts
Managers must always be the calm in the storm, taking a composed and objective approach to gathering the facts in any conflict situation. Conflicts, by nature, have a personal affect on the employees involved. Managers can only diffuse the situation by being unbiased and providing constructive directives. Lead by example while driving the team toward a resolution. Ask each employee to provide his point of view, and remind the team that everyone must have an opportunity to talk. Apply active listening skills to catch what is not being said, and to recognize the emotions behind the words.
Refocus the Team
Sometimes resolution is as simple as refocusing the team. Conflicts can result when teams lose focus by pulling in unspoken goals and objectives based on personal viewpoints or agendas. When the manager restates the team’s purpose, employees can come to realize they have infused firm requirements with soft expectations based on opinions rather than facts. Clarifying the requirements and objectives in a positive manner reintroduces a common point of reference.
If refocusing the team does not resolve the conflict, challenge team members to try brainstorming to reach a workable solution. Engage everyone by incorporating ideas from each member of the team into the solution. By facilitating the brainstorming session in a positive and professional manner, a manager can also facilitate relationship building among the team members, promoting a positive outcome through effective collaboration.
Recognize Conflict-Handling Styles
Managers can identify and address team members’ conflict-handling styles. People have different conflict-handling styles just like they have different personalities. Some people are more prone to compete, others to accommodate, still others prefer to compromise or avoid a conflict altogether. Teams that can understand the variations within their conflict-handling styles can establish effective dialogues that avoid emotional reaction or over-reaction. The goal should be to balance the teams' various styles in conflict situations, respecting the needs and interests of all members of the team.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.