Today’s leaders are burdened with many responsibilities and tasks, which can make them overwhelmed. It is commonly observed that some of the challenges may go unseen, intentionally, or get overlooked. One such neglected area is conflict management.
There are many definitions for conflict. Some of them are
“An open clash between two opposing groups.”
“A hostile meeting of opposing military forces in the course of a war.”
“A disagreement or argument about something important.”
All the definitions describe “conflict” in simple words. Though most of the descriptions project conflict as negative, it has some positive effects on an individual and an organization’s overall growth. A controlled version of this overlooked phenomenon is essential for the development of a team.
Conflict can arise within an individual, between different individuals, between different groups and teams, between various departments, and between the leader and his team.
Conflict is often overlooked and avoided by leaders as it creates an uncomfortable situation and often leads to strong negative emotions. Preventing a conflict leads to non-resolution of the problem and can create a vacuum, which can snowball in the future. The leader may be aware of certain conflicts, but there may be some, which he is not aware of. Such conflicts, if left on their own, can become catastrophic in the future. As such, the leader should manage conflicts effectively and be able to sense it from the available indicators.
Studies have proved that effective conflict management has a positive effect in major areas like problem-solving, enhanced team engagement, better interpersonal relationships, understanding others’ viewpoints, and a better perspective of a situation, thus enhancing the team’s overall performance.
The basic steps in effective conflict management involve the following steps.
Identifying and understanding the conflict
The leader should be able to identify the existence of a conflict or foresee the possibility of one arising shortly. His strong involvement in the team’s daily activities and the ability to sustain proper two-way communication will be helpful here.
Participate in conflict resolution
The leader should participate in conflict resolution and play a vital role in understanding the conflict’s evolution. Every team member should clearly understand the conflict and why this exercise has been called upon for. He should keep the outcome in mind, which should be aligned with the team’s goal and overall development of the team members. He should be a facilitator in the process and should ensure the views of every member is getting heard and understood by the entire team
Defining the boundaries and keeping a deadline
The leader should keep boundaries on the team members’ behavior during the discussion and keep a timeline to get the conflict resolved. This will help maintain an atmosphere of mutual respect and help keep the purpose of the entire exercise in sight.
When the leader feels a consensus has been reached regarding the conflict’s resolution, he should interfere to ensure that all have accepted this in the team. At this point, there are chances of new solutions unrelated to the issue at hand also getting emerged. The perspective of all gets enhanced, and they will be able to work together in a much calmer and constraint-free environment.
Such conflict-resolution exercises enhance the team bonding and their ability to get through during tough times. It also aids in finding solutions to new problems without the interference of the higher levels. The leader has to take interest and initiative in conflict resolution and not look away or avoid doing so.
Conflict resolution should be given more importance and cover wider areas in leadership skill development.