Face Conflict Head On

Conflict is a constant in management, so get used to it.

Last month we started to look at Patrick Lenconi’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team model. My article Build From Trust tackled the first dysfunction that comes up in the model – absence of trust.

The second dysfunction is fear of conflict.

According to Lenconi, fear of conflict inhibits teams from engaging in “unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues.”

He identifies two problems that come up when teams fear conflict, “First, stifling conflict actually increases the likelihood of destructive, back channel sniping. Second, it leads to sub-optimal decision-making because the team is not benefiting from the true ideas and perspectives of its members.”

Top 5 things managers need to know about conflict:

  1. People have different thresholds for conflict. Some people grow up in a household where every conversation involves yelling – it’s a natural part of their communication. Other people want to run if someone casually questions their lunch choice.It is important that you are aware of how the people on your team experience conflict. Are people hiding? Is anyone intentionally provoking others? Are people accidentally throwing others off course because they have different tolerances for conflict?
  2. You need to know your own threshhold for conflict. Once you are honest with yourself about how you feel about conflict, you can start building your capacity to deal with it.If you are adverse to conflict of any kind, you are going to avoid conversations that you need to have. If on the other hand, you have a much higher threshold than the folks on your team, you can use your confidence in the area to help others see that conflict isn’t a bad thing.

    Like any other good management behaviour, the more you model a healthy approach to conflict, the more you inspire those around you to do the same.

  3. Conflict is a lot less scary when it is out on the table. A lot of people keep things bottled up because they are afraid of what might happen if they start to release. Or they think the conflict is going to be much bigger than it really is.9 times out of 10, when my clients report back to me after confronting conflict head on, they say “I can’t believe how well that went!”  They are always shocked and excited by the possibilities that open up as soon as the dialogue is opened up. And it almost always turns out that the thing they were avoiding looked a lot smaller when they just put it out on the table.
  4. It is incredibly difficult, to do great work when you are navigating a minefield age-old unresolved issues. People often avoid conflict because they fear that after getting the issue out, there will be some kind of fall-out to deal with.Let me tell you, the fall-out from avoiding conflict is much worse. Everyone’s productivity and morale declines overtime when conflicts get buried. Instead of having 20 minutes of discomfort, some people will blink their eyes and realize they’ve suffered 20 years of anguish. And what’s worse? Their suffering wasn’t noble – in fact they have very little to show for it.
  5. Dealing with conflict is part of your job. So if you struggle with it, it is something you are going to have to learn to confront.

FYI:The #1 reason people pick up the phone and ask for my help is because there is a conflict in their environment that they can’t seem to negotiate. Conflict issues are common, and very coachable, so call me if there’s something I can help you tackle.

This article was originally published in Chris Obst’s monthly e-newsletter. Sign up on the side.

Category: All, Good Management Habits, Manage your People, Managing Conflict, Managing high performers, Team building
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