How to manage team conflict

Managing team conflict

So now that you know about conflict, how do you actually manage it? There are a number of issues that can arise when working with people, so it can feel overwhelming at times. However, there are ways to make sure you are prepared when conflict occurs.

Create a conflict resolution blueprint for your team. Every case will be different, but how you handle them should generally follow the same structure. Team members should also be aware of this blueprint so everyone is on the same page when you follow those steps. This ensures accountability of all parties. The blueprint will look different for every manager but should look something like the steps below. Click each tab to see the suggested steps or download this 1-page handout.

Address the matter at the time of conflict. Letting time pass could help some but it is more likely that tension will linger or build over time if not faced immediately.

Listen to all parties involved to understand all perspectives.  In some cases, allowing each member to talk, will allow team members to see eye to eye. Some issues might have just been miscommunication that only needed a bit of mediation.

Debates like these are easily heated if not looking at the objective side. Focus on facts rather than personal opinions.

Tie the resolution to the company’s value proposition. At the end of the day, the problem needs to be fixed in a way that benefits the organization.

Follow up with all involved to confirm what was discussed and steps to be taken. It’s easy to say we’ll fix something. Actually doing it is a much more difficult thing. Ensure you and your team hold themselves accountable.

The specific steps you define should resolve conflict, but the most important aspect is that it’s designed in a way for people to learn from the situation. Focus on the root cause, as opposed to any punitive measures.

No matter what steps you’ve chosen, it’s essential that you act quickly. Conflict—no matter how small—can grow into a much larger problem for your team. Start by calling a “timeout.” Put the work on hold, call a deliberate meeting to prioritize the team’s needs, and come up with a solution or plan for a solution. During these meetings, the team should discuss what from the team might have changed and what is causing tensions to rise. Finally, be sure to follow through with an action plan. Simply talking about it is only the first step. Holding not only the team but yourself accountable is the only way to truly resolve conflict.

Following these basic principles will help you manage the conflict your team experiences and help them learn to grow from it.

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