Leaders to Leader

Lessons from the Great American Leaders & How They Apply Now

Posts Tagged ‘conflict resolution

Seven Proactive Steps to Take to Deal With a Problem Employee

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manwithproblememployee

Employees must remain motivated if they are to perform to their maximum capabilities. Negative attitudes and behaviors not only impact personal performance, but left unchecked can spread like a cancer through the entire unit. It is essential that managers identify and address these problems as quickly as possible in order to minimize their overall impact.

When managers identify a problem, the natural tendency is to directly confront the employee and place him or her in a defensive posture. The natural reaction of the employee is to exhibit fear of repercussions and punishment for his or her behaviors and attitude. While this may be emotionally satisfying to the manager, it does not move him or her any closer to a solution. In fact, the solution may be even further away than before the employee is confronted.

It is important for managers to deal with negative behaviors and attitudes in a factual and objective fashion. By remaining emotionally and personally detached, managers will be more able to pinpoint the cause and identify acceptable paths to a productive solution.

When dealing with a negative employee, the manager must approach the individual with an open mind and remain free of personal bias and emotion that may taint the process. The following steps can be used to successfully rectify the problem.

Identify the Problem

The initial step in dealing with employee negativity is to formally recognize that there is in fact a problem requiring corrective action. The problem may be initially indicated by a decrease in performance or by a remark or complaint made by an associate or customer.

Once a problem is identified and is verified to exist, the manager needs to examine and document the extent of the problem along with possible implications and ramifications.

Talk to Employee About the Problem

Once managers have examined and documented the extent of the problem, they need to meet with the employee and objectively get the problem out on the table. This presentation should be factual and free of emotion, finger-pointing or assignment of blame. Such subjectivity will only inflame the situation, create barriers to a solution, and place the employee on the defensive.

Allow the Employee to Provide Input

The employee should be given adequate opportunity to provide their input. While he or she may be allowed to vent any frustrations, managers must keep the discussion as free of emotion and subjectivity as possible. Both the manager and employee should work together to identify the sources of the problems in a factual manner.

Identify the Source of the Problem

Often employees are so involved with and close to the problem that they are unable to look at it objectively. By remaining calm and at arm’s length, the manager should be able to pinpoint the root causes behind the problem. As often the employee will only exhibit symptoms of the problem, it is up to the manager to probe more deeply in order to uncover the problem’s causes.

Identify Potential Solutions

Once the problem is adequately identified and defined, the manager and employee then brainstorm to identify all potential solutions that are available to remedy the problem.

Again, when problems are approached in a calm, objective and factual manner, the fear of repercussion is diminished. This allows the employee to be more open to the possibility of an acceptable solution.

Agree Upon a Plan of Action

After the manager and employee have had an opportunity to brainstorm all potential solutions to the problem, proper time should be taken to carefully review each. Some will be revealed to be impractical for obvious reasons, while others may provide paths to concrete resolution of the problem.

Both parties should agree on the best option. Once chosen, a specific plan should be detailed and agreed upon. In this fashion, the employee is empowered to solve his or her problem and is accountable for implementing the plan and the solution.

Monitor Solution and Provide Feedback

Managers should actively monitor the employee’s progress in carrying out the plan to resolve their problem.

Managers should provide feedback to the employee on the acceptability of his or her work to resolve the problem. If they are meeting or exceeding the plan, praise should be given accordingly. Conversely, if he or she is failing to meet the goals of the plan, the appropriate punishments should be administered. The goal of the manager is to work with the employee to rectify the problem and eliminate the negative behavior.

If and when these steps fail to rectify the problem, the manager may have no other recourse than to terminate the employee.

Excerpt: Negative Workplace Behaviors: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 18.95 USD

Related:

16 Ways to Motivate Employees and to Celebrate Their Successes

Recognition Must Be Given Liberally, Frequently and Publicly

Motivation Is More Than Money

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Conflict Does Not Occur in a Vacuum

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conflict

Conflict and problems do not typically occur in a vacuum. The roots of existing conflict reside within each organization and its individual members. These potential conflicts can undermine the manager’s ability to lead the group he or she directs and to make sound decisions that result in a positive outcome.

Managers are confronted with a dilemma when it comes to conflict resolution. If they are unable to find the most workable fit between the problems that result in conflict and the group they direct, their ability to lead their employees will be diminished.

Many of the factors that contribute to conflict and undermine a manager’s ability to lead can be treated independently. Conflict resolution is complex, and managers must identify contributing factors and modify their approach accordingly in order to arrive at the best solution. This takes time, attention to detail, and a careful assessment of the most critical elements and surrounding circumstances within each specific conflict situation.

Not all managers are in situations where their people possess sophisticated interpersonal skills and have an open mind toward the resolution of conflict. In fact, many manage and direct groups whose makeup creates additional conflict rather than proactive solutions to already existing situations. This places managers at a disadvantage and creates situations where their ability to lead is undermined.

Managers should be cognizant of the following workplace factors and circumstances that can lead to diminishing management capabilities.

Required Knowledge and Analytical Skills

Conflict takes many forms, from simple arguments between employees over minor issues to more sophisticated discussions and negotiations regarding issues of unit efficiency and productivity. Yet no matter the type of conflict, without required group knowledge and analytical skills to assess the problem and arrive at an objective assessment, problems will occur.

Groups will assume a predominantly smoothing and avoiding approach to maintain the status quo or a bargaining and forcing mode that is destructive to the cohesiveness of the group and the organization. Both modes consistently applied in all circumstances will erode the manager’s ability to lead and direct their organization.

If managers observe some of their people lacking the requisite skills and knowledge to effectively deal with conflict within the group, they must determine whether they have the capacity, and if so, take the necessary actions to ensure this aptitude is acquired. In this fashion, managers can transform potentially dangerous situations into ones that enhance their ability to lead.

Workloads

Groups can have the required knowledge and analytical skills to effectively handle internal conflict, but be so overburdened with other tasks and responsibilities that their ability to work through it is still greatly diminished. The constraints of other higher priority assignments lessen both the desire and ability of members to manage their conflicts. As such clashes are viewed as an unnecessary interruption in more important work, they defer resolution to the manager.

High levels of stress generally characterize overloaded groups. High stress leads to a shallow and incomplete diagnosis—as well as a preference for solutions that are simple and inflexible rather than creative and effective.

Expectations

Each individual member of a group has an established idea regarding the degree to which they will become involved in conflict resolution. While approaches vary according to participants’ makeup and personality styles, the predominant mode of conflict resolution is smoothing and avoiding, where peace and the status quo are maintained. In other situations, depending upon company norms, some groups feel very strongly about their right to be involved in a decision.

Research has shown that many of the tensions that develop between managers and employees stem from differing assumptions regarding the appropriate degree of group participation in certain types of decisions.

Managers must account for members’ individual personality styles and expectations since reactions and expectations will vary from group to group.

Conflict Resolution Norms

Group conflict resolution can be especially difficult when individual members have different and/or conflicting goals and needs. The most critical aspect of a group’s problem solving ability is its capacity to handle internal conflict.

Managers must ensure that the groups they direct have developed positive and healthy norms. Only when this is achieved is an appropriate forum created in which to work out problems and resolve conflict. Without these resolution norms, serious and heated group controversy will be divisive and result in ineffective and potentially harmful solutions.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $19.95 USD

Related:

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

“Dissent, Even Conflict Is Necessary, Indeed Desirable”

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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With Conflict Resolution Nothing is Straightforward and Simple

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conflict

The style of problem solving and conflict resolution is the most important factor in determining group effectiveness. Research has shown that the predominant mode of conflict resolution that characterizes leadership and management groups is the most significant variable in determining whether or not companies are profitable.

The manner in which managers resolve problems and overcome conflict within their organizations may appear of little consequence as long as the problem is solved and the conflict is eliminated. However, managers must understand the group dynamics that impact solutions and their consequences.

There are various modes of conflict resolution that come into play in the workplace. Some define the group by the norms accepted. Other styles of conflict resolution may be appropriate to the circumstances surrounding the problem. Nothing is straightforward and simple.

It is important for managers to understand the complexity of problem solving and conflict resolution. There are specific methods and techniques that managers should use and apply to be consistently effective. However, they should recognize there are other styles of conflict resolution that can be more effective, depending upon the circumstances and the makeup of the individuals involved. Managers must learn to recognize all modes and when they are best applied.

There are a variety of conflict resolution modes that managers will find to be common in the workplace. It should be noted that most groups often act in ways that contain one or more of these styles in their efforts to deal with conflict:

Smoothing and Avoiding

These groups tend to be comprised of accommodating individuals who, when a problem or conflict occurs, will tend to define it in a manner that minimizes the differences between individuals. Their objective is to maintain the status quo within the group. As a whole, this method of conflict resolution is destructive because it does not address the central issues or actually resolve the sources of conflict. Consequently, these issues tend to fester within the group and will emerge later as a larger issue.

The group norms that identify the smoothing and avoiding behavior include individuals who tend to withdraw when attacked in order to avoid conflict. Additionally, individual group members tend to keep their feelings and remarks in check so that they don’t surface. This effectively masks internal conflict and prevents the manager, as well as the group, from identifying the undercurrents that are present.

Confronting and Problem Solving

This form of conflict resolution represents the healthiest behavior. The members of this group tend to be collaborators. They will define the problem relative to the total organization’s needs versus their own. The outcomes of this group are interdependent if the total group benefits from the solution.

The group norms that identify the confronting and problem solving behavior include individuals who feel it is important to bring out and confront the differences of opinion and perspective within the group. They also feel that all solutions to conflict should be open and fair to all involved and to the organization as a whole. The group will tend to arrive at answers and solutions by reason rather than the application of personal power and authority.

Confronting and problem solving behaviors are generally the most effective mode for resolving group conflicts.

Bargaining and Forcing

This form of conflict resolution behavior favors and is beneficial to specific power groups and personal agendas. It takes a winning-at-all-costs slant that positions one group against another. The problems tend to be defined in terms of the stakes of each group. The participants and the atmosphere are confrontational and adversarial. The outcome favors one group at the expense of all others.

The group norms that typify bargaining and forcing behaviors include individuals who will seize the advantage whenever possible and compromise when the advantage is the other group’s. Individuals will tend to maximize the benefits for themselves over the other individual members.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Related:

Unresolved Conflict is Corrosive to Leadership

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

“Dissent, Even Conflict Is Necessary, Indeed Desirable”

Handling Workplace Complaints, Concerns and Issues

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Conflict Is More Than Simply ‘Not Getting Along’

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manpointing-atemployee

Conflict is commonplace within any organization. Whenever individuals of diverse interests and backgrounds interact with each other, discord will arise. In some management circles, this friction is viewed negatively; however, when effective conflict resolution techniques are applied, productive agreements can be reached. This strengthens both individual personal relationships and the organization as a whole.

Conflicts should be considered part of the normal business environment. They arise because managers build teams consisting of diverse people with different abilities. This is what brings a sense of balance to the team and facilitates a synergy created by a unit that is greater than the sum of its parts. Yet even when a team is developed with productive synergy, conflict will arise.

The key to effective conflict resolution is to view it as an opportunity, not just as a sign that a problem exists within the organization. A team created with a productive synergy brings many diverse viewpoints and perspectives to a situation or problem. While conflict enters in when these perspectives clash with one another, this is the opportunity to stimulate a healthy debate around the issues and build a consensus.

The problem many managers have is that some individuals loathe conflict and prefer to run from it, which confines them to a play-it-safe world where little is accomplished or learned. Additionally, the conflicts are allowed to fester, resulting in long-term problems that will at some point need resolution.

When managers encounter conflict within their organization, there are four critical factors that they need to be cognizant of to assure that the situation can be resolved successfully. These are:

Resolution

While conflict presents a healthy opportunity for an organization to grow, all parties involved in the dispute must possess the right attitude if the situation is going to be resolved, which won’t happen without a healthy outlook.

If both parties don’t want to arrive at a resolution, it won’t happen until someone intervenes; however, the conflict can still continue to fester if one or both parties feel the outcome was forced.

Personal Agendas

Often when conflict occurs, personal differences, agendas and feelings about past problems arise and interfere with the resolution. Until all parties are willing to put these issues aside and look beyond them and at common issues and concerns, the conflict will not be resolved.

All parties must ask themselves what is more important to them: clinging to their personal opinions and perceived injuries, or working together to solve a problem or issue that is important to the organization and ultimately to each individual involved in the conflict?

Communication

Within the context of conflict resolution, true communication must take place. This process requires doing more than just persuasively arguing for one point of view over another; it requires proactive listening to learn and appreciate the other person’s needs and concerns.

Before any successful resolution can take place, all parties’ needs and concerns must be addressed. Thus, effective communication is the key to effective management and organizational health.

Dedication to the Success of the Relationship

The manager’s goal in conflict resolution must go beyond merely keeping the peace and averting a crisis. Rather, they must foster a productive relationship between the individuals involved in order to build positive momentum.

If managers want this momentum to be successful and enduring, resolution must be dedicated to the success of the relationship, and not to the fulfillment of one group’s wishes over another. All parties must stay focused on what is good for the organization rather than on the quest for power and advancement of their personal agendas.

The key is to face the problem, separate the parties involved from it, and then commit to resolving the matter in a way that meets all participant needs. Conflict can develop into an opportunity for all parties to grow while simultaneously advancing the organization.

Related:

How Employees Handle Conflict

The Stronger the Personal Feelings, the Less Likely Any Agreement Will Occur

Unresolved Conflict is Corrosive to Leadership

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011) $ 17.95 USD

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2013 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Unresolved Conflict is Corrosive to Leadership

with 5 comments

fearfulman

Conflict and problems do not typically occur in a vacuum. The roots of existing conflict reside within each organization and its individual members. These potential conflicts can undermine the manager’s ability to lead the group he or she directs and to make sound decisions that result in a positive outcome.

Managers are confronted with a dilemma when it comes to conflict resolution. If they are unable to find the most workable fit between the problems that result in conflict and the group they direct, their ability to lead their employees will be diminished.

Many of the factors that contribute to conflict and undermine a manager’s ability to lead can be treated independently. Conflict resolution is complex, and managers must identify contributing factors and modify their approach accordingly in order to arrive at the best solution. This takes time, attention to detail, and a careful assessment of the most critical elements and surrounding circumstances within each specific conflict situation.

Not all managers are in situations where their people possess sophisticated interpersonal skills and have an open mind toward the resolution of conflict. In fact, many manage and direct groups whose makeup creates additional conflict rather than proactive solutions to already existing situations. This places managers at a disadvantage and creates situations where their ability to lead is undermined.

Managers should be cognizant of the following workplace factors and circumstances that can lead to diminishing management capabilities.

Required Knowledge and Analytical Skills

Conflict takes many forms, from simple arguments between employees over minor issues to more sophisticated discussions and negotiations regarding issues of unit efficiency and productivity. Yet no matter the type of conflict, without required group knowledge and analytical skills to assess the problem and arrive at an objective assessment, problems will occur.

Groups will assume a predominantly smoothing and avoiding approach to maintain the status quo or a bargaining and forcing mode that is destructive to the cohesiveness of the group and the organization. Both modes consistently applied in all circumstances will erode the manager’s ability to lead and direct their organization.

If managers observe some of their people lacking the requisite skills and knowledge to effectively deal with conflict within the group, they must determine whether they have the capacity, and if so, take the necessary actions to ensure this aptitude is acquired. In this fashion, managers can transform potentially dangerous situations into ones that enhance their ability to lead.

Workloads

Groups can have the required knowledge and analytical skills to effectively handle internal conflict, but be so overburdened with other tasks and responsibilities that their ability to work through it is still greatly diminished. The constraints of other higher priority assignments lessen both the desire and ability of members to manage their conflicts. As such clashes are viewed as an unnecessary interruption in more important work, they defer resolution to the manager.

High levels of stress generally characterize overloaded groups. High stress leads to a shallow and incomplete diagnosis—as well as a preference for solutions that are simple and inflexible rather than creative and effective.

Expectations

Each individual member of a group has an established idea regarding the degree to which they will become involved in conflict resolution. While approaches vary according to participants’ makeup and personality styles, the predominant mode of conflict resolution is smoothing and avoiding, where peace and the status quo are maintained. In other situations, depending upon company norms, some groups feel very strongly about their right to be involved in a decision.

Research has shown that many of the tensions that develop between managers and employees stem from differing assumptions regarding the appropriate degree of group participation in certain types of decisions.

Managers must account for members’ individual personality styles and expectations since reactions and expectations will vary from group to group.

Conflict Resolution Norms

Group conflict resolution can be especially difficult when individual members have different and/or conflicting goals and needs. The most critical aspect of a group’s problem solving ability is its capacity to handle internal conflict.

Managers must ensure that the groups they direct have developed positive and healthy norms. Only when this is achieved is an appropriate forum created in which to work out problems and resolve conflict. Without these resolution norms, serious and heated group controversy will be divisive and result in ineffective and potentially harmful solutions.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Management Skill Development Training Series (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

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manpointing-atemployee

While internal conflict and friction can be healthy for an organization – in that it can channel that energy into creative and innovative solutions – there are times when managers must understand that conflict can be costly, especially if personal interests and agendas are placed above the needs of the organization.

By definition, managers are concerned with the entire organization, not just their own personal spheres of influence. Managers must rise above the desire to attain a power base or advance an agenda. They must direct any conflict resolution toward creating and crafting the best possible solution for the entire organization.

While conflict is healthy in most working environments, there are two general areas where conflict can be damaging and destructive to the entire organization.

Personal Agendas and Perspectives

One of the most problematic areas of conflict resolution is the application of personal agendas and perspectives to conflict resolution. A natural tendency in all individuals, this can cause difficulties if the personal agenda of one or more members of a group overpower the needs of the organization.

This is especially problematic when someone senior to the rest of the group members is advancing their personal agenda. The areas where individual personal agendas can be damaging include:

Biased Assimilation of Information

How a problem or conflict is perceived and defined impacts its resolution. Personal agendas and perceptions can create a bias that adversely affects the definition of the problem and, ultimately, the solution.

This misstep occurs when information and data is received from an external source and processed with a lack of understanding or adequate background information. Additionally, the information can be processed using incorrect assumptions, perceptions or decision making norms to frame the issue; this ultimately impacts the formation of the solution in regard to conclusions and the actions caused by them.

When personal agendas strongly influence a group—either in the form of intimidation or by the use of power over the group—there is a reluctance to question the information and perspectives being presented.

The group assumes a smoothing and avoiding conflict resolution style that allows these differences in opinion and perspective to be both minimized and glossed over. When a wrong decision is made that impacts the organization, the primary influencer can disclaim any exclusive association by pointing out the group nature of the decision. This tactic serves to mask any personal agenda at play, often to extremely destructive effect.

Partisan Perceptions

Research has demonstrated that there is an unconscious tendency in individuals to enhance their own side of a conflict, portraying it as more insightful, honest and morally upright. An associated phenomenon is the tendency to vilify the opposition, portraying them as both unscrupulous and vile.

These two phenomena have dominated research on inter-group relations for over 40 years. In more recent studies, the insidious and involuntary nature of partisan tactics has become more apparent, as it affects the nature of conflict and the specific manners in which the resolution process is undermined.

When applied to the aforementioned concept of biased assimilation of information, it is obvious how conflict intensifies when one group strongly believes in their viewpoints while simultaneously vilifying their opponents.’

Organizations feel the impact as the conflict degenerates into personal battles and animosities that can endure for prolonged periods of time. This partisanship poisons the workplace environment to the point that satisfactory resolution becomes nearly impossible without outside intervention.

Scarce Resources

The other major source of internal conflict within organizations is the battle between groups and departments over the utilization of limited resources. This situation readily surfaces when organizations lack clear direction.

In certain circumstances, larger and more powerful departments are able to dominate this battle and intimidate smaller and less influential groups.

While this “survival of the fittest” confrontation might be considered productive by some members of management, it is ultimately unhealthy and damaging if badly needed resources are diverted away from those areas of the organization most in need of them or from those who can put them to the most productive use.

Related:

The Challenge of Handling Conflict

How Employees Handle Conflict

Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution – Pinpoint Management Skill Development Series (Majorium Business Press – Stevens Point, WI, 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

How Employees Handle Conflict

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The natural tendencies of many individuals and other group dynamics can hinder a leader’s ability to be effective in resolving conflict in the group setting. The leader must take the time to observe and then rectify specific behaviors that interfere with conflict resolution.

When problems and issues arise, many individuals have a natural tendency to avoid friction. When that is not possible, they seek to remain uninvolved in its resolution.

Employees may be forced to be part of a group charged with solving a problem, but these individuals are often not happy about it. The fight-or-flight response takes over, and even if they are physically present, they have mentally left the conflict.

When problems do occur leaders must ensure that all viewpoints and perspectives are heard and all alternatives explored. Techniques can be utilized to ensure that all members of the group are included in both the discussion and crafting of an acceptable solution.

Leaders can look for specific behavior patterns in order to determine how employees handle conflict. These patterns may be nonverbal and not readily apparent, but a careful examination will help leaders spotlight the behaviors impeding conflict resolution and enable them to address and rectify the situation.

Related: Is Conflict Destructive to Your Organization?

Such an examination includes looking at:

Alternatives

The first behavioral patterns leaders need to explore are the alternatives that are considered when solving a problem in the group setting. Problems can present themselves and additional conflicts can be created if employees tend to consider only a few potential alternatives.

If leaders observe these patterns, they must engage the group in brainstorming techniques that explore all possible avenues toward resolution. This action fosters creative thinking within the group and provides innovative solutions to eliminate the causes of conflict.

Emphasis

Within some groups, the smoothing and avoiding approach to conflict resolution is predominant, resulting in areas of agreement being overemphasized while leaving areas of disagreement unexplored. This deficiency allows the situation to fester and explode into a bigger problem down the road.

When leaders observe this pattern, they must shift the group’s emphasis to balance areas of agreement with disagreement. All aspects must be fully examined and the alternatives considered before the problem can be adequately resolved.

Disagreement

Leaders need to observe how members respect individual disagreement, as group norms may keep any discordance from being voiced. In other situations, individuals who convey disagreement may be ridiculed, bullied or intimidated so that it is not taken seriously or considered by the group.

Leaders must ensure that all members of the group have an open and equal opportunity to voice any problems they might have and offer valid points and perspectives. Any attempt to quiet opposition will create additional conflict and deeper problems.

Related: The Challenge of Handling Conflict

Agreement

There are many criteria that a group can consider in establishing agreement among its members. Some will use a majority vote, while others will arrive at a consensus before moving forward. Some group norms interpret a lack of opposition as agreement.

Leaders should shift the group toward a consensus where all viewpoints are both voiced and considered. All members of the group must be included, especially those who may be reluctant to say anything. Only in this fashion will all viewpoints, options or alternatives be considered.

Openness

In several conflict resolution modes, leaders should be watchful for members “stumping” for a specific viewpoint or perspective rather than inquiring about the potential alternatives available to the group.

Additionally, leaders can observe how actively members listen to each other’s perspectives and whether or not the members respect the input of all individuals. These clues help the leader determine the group’s openness to alternative perspectives.

Leaders must ensure that all perspectives are voiced and respected. The advocacy of one point of view without a full exploration of the facts and all possible solutions should not be tolerated.

Participation

The participation of individual members, their reactions to the group setting, and their involvement with specific issues should be carefully observed. Leaders should pay attention to whether members are apathetic, frustrated, defensive, warm or enthusiastic.

Each of these emotional states will impact both conflict resolution and problem solving. Apathy, frustration and defensive postures can result in faulty or unresolved solutions that will lead to subsequent issues.

Leaders should meet with each employee displaying negative personal attributes in order to determine the causes of their attitudes. In some cases, these attributes can surface because conflict and disagreement are not tolerated. Individuals may feel that their opinions are not respected or wanted. Such difficulties must be addressed if the group is to be effective.

Related: Conflict Turns Decision Making Upside Down

Interaction

The final area that leaders must monitor closely is the interaction of individual members within the group environment. Some of these factors have already been discussed, including individuals who are overly nice and polite and emote only positive feelings.

Group members might too readily agree with one another while suppressing their true thoughts. This indicates that the group is in a destructive conflict resolution mode where suppression dominates and the status quo is maintained.

Leaders who observe these clues must intervene in meetings and take the initiative in order to draw out the true feelings and perspectives of the group. They can effectively do this by using open-ended questions that operate until satisfactory responses are obtained.

Excerpt: Conflict Resolution: Pinpoint Leadership Skill Development Training Series by Timothy Bednarz (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Timothy F. Bednarz, Ph.D. | Author | Publisher | Majorium Business Press
Author of Great! What Makes Leaders Great: What They Did, How They Did It and What You Can Learn From It (Finalist – 2011 Foreword Reviews‘ Book of the Year)
Linkedin | Facebook | Twitter | Web| Blog | Catalog |800.654.4935 | 715.342.1018

Copyright © 2012 Timothy F. Bednarz, All Rights Reserved

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