KEYS TO RESOLVING CONFLICT
Once managers understand conflict, and how it arises, they can start to build an environment that encourages conflict resolution. Shearouse suggests managers start by focusing on the following:
* Apologies and Forgiveness
If trust is so critical, how do managers establish it, and then how do they keep it? Shearouse suggests they start by understanding three categories of trust: reliability, competence, and caring.
1. Reliability. Reliable managers are clear about what they are committed to, and what they expect of others. These managers keep their commitments. Reliable managers are also stable managers. Employees respond to consistency in the boss’s behavior and mood. If the boss is unpredictable, distrust mounts.
2. Competence. Those new to managing people need to acknowledge that a new skill set is needed, and find a way to hone those new skills. Employees need to trust that the manager has the skills to lead the team.
3. Caring. Employees need to know that their managers care about them as people–about their career development, and even their personal lives–not just the role they play. Managers need to respect people for who they are. Listen closely to staff, and keep them well informed.
Apologies and Forgiveness
Apologizing and forgiving are critical to working through workplace conflicts. They can be the difference between moving forward, or not. Shearouse believes that an apology that is heartfelt and convincing can begin to rebuild relationships.
Managers should set the tone with apologies and forgiveness. When employees see the manager apologizing for mistakes, and forgiving others, they will do the same. And with apologies and forgiveness, strong bonds between staff will begin to emerge.
Anger can wreak havoc in conflict resolution. Therefore, understanding anger and how to work around it is an important conflict-resolution skill. Emotions are inescapable, and they will play a role in everyday interactions, so managing their energy becomes crucial. Their energy is not always negative, as emotions provide the jumpstart needed to take action and make decisions. But emotions can also lead to “emotional highjacking”–when the emotions take over the thinking, reasoning part of the brains. To properly resolve conflicts, managers must understand emotional highjacking and know how to get past its effects.
Shearouse points out that it is important to note that anger is not automatic. Rather, it is a secondary response to other emotions. Consequently, understanding the emotions that cause anger will help manage conflict more effectively.
A Sense of Humor
A sense of humor can go a long way in dealing with difficult workplace issues. First, it keeps things in perspective. Sometimes, everyone just needs to take a step back and laugh to ease the tension and move forward. Second, managers who laugh at their own mistakes will create an environment where everyone feels like they can admit to being human, making mistakes, and moving on. Third, laughter can actually improve the thought process. Shearouse suggests that laughter brings oxygen to the brain and helps clear up clouded thinking. Finally, humor can help deliver tough messages more easily.
Patience is truly a virtue when dealing with conflict. Conflicts are much less likely to escalate if both parties step back and slow down their reaction times. People need time to absorb information and see things from another perspective.
Managers should let time heal hurt and wounded egos, and avoid trying to solve conflict when the hurt is fresh. This is especially true when criticism and complaints are involved. People should not respond right away to negative feedback, but rather take the time to process and absorb the information without emotions getting in the way. The same goes for bad news–loss of a promotion, a reorganization, etc. When faced with bad news, people need time and space to grieve.