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Thursday, October 18, 2007

The best guide for Conflict Resolution (FINAL)

Investment in the Resolution

As the leader, you need to get the people who are involved in the conflict invested in the outcome in order to ensure their participation in the accepted resolution. This is the one of the most important parts of the entire conflict resolution process, because your goal is not to just to resolve the current conflict, but to avoid further conflict by eliminating the underlying cause.

The quickest and most effective way to do this is by having the group work together to generate multiple alternatives rather than having someone prescribe a solution. Through participating in this process, they are compromising, developing consensus and seeking win/win resolutions.

By involving team members in the resolution, you also have a much better chance of getting to the underlying cause and addressing it in an effective manner. If you attempt to resolve conflict yourself, you may miss a piece of information that a team member could share with you.

if a company policy is involved in the conflict, you will need to add an additional step to your conflict resolution strategy. You must clear your proposed resolution with the company. Preferably, you will have your company representative join the initial resolution discussions so you can find out if compromise is even possible. If this is impractical, additional discussions can be held with company representatives after the initial discussions, but before final adoption and implementation.

Without investment in the resolution, you may end up with staff who inadvertently, or perhaps purposefully, sabotage the plan or act in a passive-aggressive manner. This can lead to future conflict.

However, there are times when you may need to impose a solution. You may encounter a situation where the people involved in the conflict take positions that allow little or no negotiation toward resolution. In such an instance, for the well-being of the entire team, you may have to develop and announce a resolution.

If this is not your predominant style of leadership, you should openly describe this as exercising your authority. You should also explain how the situation has forced you to take this route for the benefit of the whole group. Consider emphasizing that consensus is your goal as manager, but in this particular case it wasn't possible. This will reinforce that you will not hesitate to act if the situation demands it.

Pre-empting Conflict

In your role as a manager or leader, you may find that conflict erupts in the most severe or intense forms when your staff is dealing with feelings that they haven't been able to express.

One strategy you can use to pre-empt conflict is to give your staff permission to disagree with you and with each other. Not only will this give your team more freedom to articulate their ideas and thoughts, it will lessen the chance that resentment will build because of unexpressed feelings.

As a supervisor, it's your responsibility to model this behavior, showing how to express disagreement (privately versus openly, in writing versus orally) and to make clear what types of disagreement will and will not be tolerated on your team.

You should also clearly explain who has final decision-making responsibility and authority. It may be you or, if you are supervising independent units, there may be decision-makers below you.

Hint: Being specific with your staff about roles, responsibilities, authority, expectations, rewards and sanctions is one of the keys to pre-empting conflict.

It is vitally important that everyone knows and understands who these people are. By clearly articulating the lines of authority and by consistently supporting those who have this authority, you can pre-empt a great deal of conflict arising over power.

Another strategy for pre-empting conflict is to ask your staff to evaluate your performance as a leader or manager. This can be a valuable place for feedback and help you recognize problem areas and make any necessary changes. It also sets up a reciprocal relationship between you and your staff, which helps establish the trust that you need to be an effective leader.

Being a leader or supervisor requires preparation and thought about possible conflicts and how to anticipate them. Pre-empting conflict is always preferable to resolving it after it has erupted.

Effective conflict resolution skills are absolutely essential for leaders and supervisors. Conflict resolution strategies that cannot be articulated are of little use to a team or group seeking to resolve a conflict, so your communication skills will also be very important. Timing is also important. A conflict that is ignored for any period of time can worsen in the minds of those experiencing it. Conflicts do not resolve themselves and they do not get better with time. It is much better to face conflict as soon as it comes to your attention so you can manage a team that works smoothly.

Cheers for Success

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