Even the best teams and kindest people experience conflict from time to time. It’s human nature – and just part of the package when we spend a large chunk of time with other people.
If we can effectively manage conflict within our teams, we’re able to communicate and have respectful disagreements that preserve morale, culture, and productivity.
On the other hand, if we don’t get it right then morale plummets, culture disintegrates, and our productivity takes a hit.
There’s a few ways we can navigate this, and here are some tips to help.
1. Ask permission to have the conversation
The biggest mistake we see is people launching into a conversation about the issue, without checking in and asking if it’s okay to raise the subject.
Without asking permission, it has the effect of instigating the conversation and surprising other parties.
This starts them on the back foot, can make people a bit defensive, and this is the environment in which people become emotional and reactive.
2. Manage the art of pre-framing
Pre-framing is about saying “I want to have a conversation about this, to achieve this outcome.”
When you set the frame for the conversation, you’re taking control of the situation and the tone – whoever sets the frame controls the conversation.
This also allows you to define what’s in the conversation and what’s out of the conversation. You don’t want to bring unnecessary stuff in, otherwise it can spiral out of context and get personal.
3. Non-blameful communication
Conflict can often become a situation of “play the man but not the ball.” This means instead of tackling the problem, we just end up tackling each other.
This is where it’s important to use “I” statements, talk about behaviours and their impact, and not fall into verbal ultimates like “you always” or “never”. That’s a fast track to accusations, defensiveness, and high emotions.
Conflict isn’t pleasant, but it can be productive. It’s a great opportunity to air out underlying issues and find solutions to make everyone’s life easier.