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7 Tips to Manage Conflict from a Position of Leadership

by Hesam Lamei

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable, and it is often difficult for executives to determine the best way to manage conflict from a leadership position. Read on to learn seven essential tips for CEOs to manage conflict.

1. Embrace the Positive

First, leaders should remember that conflict can bring about positive change and improved group consensus. Rather than setting a “my way or the highway” tonality of leadership, a CEO who embraces conflict opens channels of dialogue that can lead to improved processes and communication.

2. It’s Not Personal

It can be easy to have your viewpoint clouded by other’s personal accounts of conflicts. It is important as leaders to always focus on conflict from an objective standpoint and pinpoint the key issues at hand, i.e. the technology, products, or customers at the core of the conflict.

3. Imagine Their Viewpoint

Continuing on the subject of viewpoint, leaders should also try to see the conflict from individuals’ perspectives. Ask employees involved in a conflict to explain their viewpoint to you, and then try to articulate their perspective back to them. Then ask them to do the same for your perspective. This practice can help CEOs seem more approachable as well as shed light on areas of conflict that may be miscommunicated through heresy and emotionally charged interactions.

4. Encourage Openness

Conflict can easily be blown out of proportion or infiltrate all interactions between combatting employees if the issues are not confronted head-on as they arise. Once conflict between employees bubbles up, it is important to encourage openness to air out all facets of an issue to allow healing and improved relationships.

5. Time It Right

One of the worst ways you can manage conflict as a leader is to delay addressing the issue. The workplace can quickly become a toxic environment when leaders allow conflict to fester. Avoiding conflict entirely creates silos and internal disruption including interdepartmental competition and manipulation. Furthermore, leaders who avoid conflict create an artificial, untrustworthy work environment, and often put their reputation at risk because others view them as lacking the skills to manage conflict appropriately. Try to always remember to tackle issues head-on at the first site of hard evidence of repeated patterns.

6. Know the Boundaries

Each employee has his or her own limits with conflict tolerance based on their own personal experiences. With ever growing diversity within workplaces, it is crucial for leadership to be sensitive to these differences in conflict tolerance. You must get to know your employees individually to understand how they will affect the company culture you are trying to instill. Consistent employee coaching can also help set expectations for conflict resolution within company parameters and determine how things should be adjusted for individual needs.

7. Respect Everyone’s Differences

Adding on to the point about ever growing diversity in workplaces across the country, it is of the utmost importance to respect everyone’s differences. Learning to see things from multiple perspectives will also help avoid conflict in the future. If employees’ differences go unacknowledged, CEOs will unknowingly create tension with these employees and undervalue their contributions.

Effective leaders have the maturity, self-awareness and wisdom to confront and defuse conflict within the workplace. They look at conflict as opportunities for growth and positive change rather than an unavoidable nuisance. When approached correctly, conflict serves as an enabler of professional growth for all employees involved and possibly business growth depending on the core issues at hand.