When you take on a leadership role in the work place, rest assured that you will face conflict more often than not. Conflict is part of being a leader. A good leader possesses powerful conflict resolution tools and is not afraid to use them. Conflict that goes unresolved will fester and breed further contempt and animosity between the two sides of the dispute. The conflict may cause productivity and creativity to suffer. So how can you, in your leadership capacity, step in and create resolution while remaining impartial and fair? Here are some suggestions:
- Establish good lines of communication, and back it in writing. This includes well-defined job descriptions. Strong leaders make sure all employees are well-informed.
- When conflict happens, it’s best to be proactive by dealing with it sooner rather than later. There are preventive steps you can take to avoid disputes, of course. Some of the more powerful ones involve putting your keen observation skills to good use to identify potential areas or triggers. Then do your best to minimize, and wherever possible, eliminate those before they begin. When disputes occur, deal with them swiftly and fairly. This will reduce the likelihood of good employees walking out the door in search of better working conditions.
- Be sure you possess a clear grasp of what has created the conflict to begin with. Assess and understand each side’s objectives, and then intercede and do your best to help each achieve their goals in a non-confrontational manner that will result in a strong win-win.
- Provide a safe, open forum where each side can voice their opinion or grievance so the lines of communication are flowing easily. Incorrect assumptions and misunderstandings that are allowed to build provide excellent fuel for the fire of conflict. Take the bull by the horns in your leadership role by holding frequent departmental meetings. Institute an “open door” policy so that employees can air their concerns before they escalate. These are two important steps you can take to help conflicts be resolved quickly and a lot more smoothly.
Excellent leaders do not fear disputes and avoid them; they look at each one that arises as a learning and growth opportunity for all involved. Be willing to step in when necessary while continuing to foster the spirit of cooperation and clear communication among all employees and departments. It will go far in the minimization of future disputes while nurturing the spirit of good teamwork.