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Managing Conflict: A Leader's Guide

Even in the most close-knit teams, conflict happens. And in an ongoing pandemic, at a time when lots of people may be moving to new jobs and positions? New people joining a team that's been stressed? It can be hard to just get through the day - let alone know what to do when a dispute pops up! 

Leaders - whether you're formally a supervisor, division head, executive, or just someone people look to for guidance - set the tone of the group. Some of us do it well and easily! And even those of us who make it look SO easy can still fall flat on our faces when faced with a conflict. 

That's part of why I became a mediator: I wanted to learn how to handle conflict (and help others). Yes, I've learned some tips I use personally - though you should NEVER mediate something important to you, because you can't be impartial. 

So let's dive into some tips for leaders needing to handle a conflict on their team: 

  • Stay calm.
    • Sure, easier said than done in many cases -...
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Hey Managers! Build trust to resolve conflict.

Workplace cultures that are generally supportive and collaborative usually have fewer conflicts - because they approach disagreements as opportunities to innovate, converse, connect, and build something new. 

Usually that's easier said than done, but an essential element is to build trust on your team. 

Building trust within your team, no matter the larger culture in which you work, goes a long way toward preventing conflicts on the team.

  • If you're new to managing this team, it can be relatively easy to build trust:

    • get to know your team members;

    • find excuses to share fun, light-hearted moments with them;

    • say a heartfelt “thank you” for specific actions whenever you can;

    • and, follow through on whatever plans or promises you may make to them.

  • If you can’t follow through, or if you’re finding that on stressful days you are a bit less nice than you would want to be - just be authentic. Let the team know that you’re having a tough...

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Dealing with Micromanagers at Work (1 of 2)

 
Micromanaging
  1. control every part, however small, of (an enterprise or activity). 
It's hard, right? When you're a manager and you want to ensure the work is getting done in the right way and on time.... OR.... you're an employee and you're dealing with a manager who's trying to control and monitor every aspect of your work. 
 
Here are some ways to cope, from an employee's perspective. More advice to come for managers!

Ask: What’s the micromanager’s motivation?

People may micromanage for different reasons. Often, they don’t know how else to manage; they may have to deal with a micromanager themselves and require info from you to pass on; or, they may think they’re supporting you by checking on tasks. You may be able to figure this out on your own through reflection and observation, or, you may have to ask them - tactfully - about it. 

Example: “I notice that most of our conversations are about tasks rather than how...

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What to Do with All Your Emotions

A short video about emotional reappraisal for managers.

This morning I spoke with a client about dealing with anxiety and setting boundaries while managing her team, which had just grown in size and was working longer hours.

Yes, business growth IS still happening in the midst of COVID-19! Yet, we’re also all dealing with more stress than ever, partly because of fears due to the virus and partly because - though we are very social animals - we have to be physically distant from anyone we don’t live with. That definitely creates its own stress.

The key to dealing with the stress and anxiety is:

Emotional reappraisal.

Science tells us suppressing emotions doesn't work. Ignoring them and behaving as though you are not feeling anything will backfire - either by becoming actually cut off from your emotions, or by having those emotions explode out of you at inappropriate times.

Yet giving emotions full control over our thinking and conversations can also be...

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End Workplace Conflict with These 4 Steps

As a mediator, and a former community/political organizer, I’ve learned a lot about conflict. I founded Chantilly Mediation and Facilitation because Americans spend more time working than doing anything else - and we deserve to be happy at work. Conflict, while inevitable among humans, can be handled in ways that actually increase happiness.

There are four keys to building a happier workplace, and every one of them will help your employees deal with conflict more productively.

 
  • Curiosity

  • Kindness

  • Engagement

  • Shared Purpose

Curiosity

Your mindset is always a choice: When you can, choose curiosity. Someone at work is in your face, or didn’t do something they’re supposed to, or did do something they are not supposed to do. Instead of focusing on blame or disappointment or the person, start asking questions: Why did they behave that way? What might make them do that? What might they be thinking or feeling that would lead them to do or say...

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Emotions At Work!

I’ve been talking to people a lot recently about empathy – what it is, what our reactions are to it, how can it be helpful – or not.

Many people believe empathy is a good thing, but do not generally give it a lot of thought, particularly when it comes to professional relationships. Whether you work primarily in an office as part of a team, primarily with clients, or primarily on your own, acknowledging that emotions are a part of life and being open to sharing compassion can be hugely beneficial. Even at work!

Compassion & Empathy – What’s the Connection?

Empathy is when we feel, or understand, someone else’s emotion. Compassion is one of the possible responses to empathy; in fact, it’s the goal. When we can see that someone else is in any type of distress – dealing with an emotion we typically think of as “negative” like anger, sadness, grief, disappointment, etc. – compassion is what we’re feeling if...

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Mediator Tips: Mitigate Conflict with Collaboration

I’m psyched to bring my Resolve Conflict Now training to BBG’s audience of HR professionals on September 18, 2019, in the comfort of their own offices - not BBG’s offices; this is a webinar anyone can join. It’s also free! Register here.

Part of the 101-level, one-hour webinar will focus on how to build a collaborative workforce. I sum it all up with four keys:

  • Curiosity

  • Kindness

  • Engagement

  • Shared purpose

Let’s take them, briefly, one by one.

Curiosity

Your mindset is always a choice: When you can, choose curiosity. Someone at work is in your face, or didn’t do something they’re supposed to, or did do something they are not supposed to do. Instead of focusing on blame or disappointment, choose to get curious - Why did they behave that way? What might be happening that’s motivating them to do that thing that’s completely awful, in your opinion? Why exactly do you think it is completely awful?

Have a conversation with...

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Active Listening Cues

Most recently, my clients have either benefited from - or explicitly requested - information about active listening. As a mediator, active listening is one of my most important skills. Active listening:

  • Is the best way I know to ensure that I understand what is being communicated.

  • Allows me to ask about and better empathize with the emotions behind whatever is being said.

  • Helps forge and enhance relationships - professional and personal.

I’ve written about active listening before, and today I read a new, short piece by Daniel Goleman about it. He writes about what research has shown, namely that active listening requires sensing, processing, and responding. Most importantly, it requires unitasking - shut off the phone, turn away from the screen, and - if at all possible - shut down the part of your brain that brings up your to-do or shopping lists!

Still, both my previous posts and Goleman’s latest provide more of a philosophy than a basic tips sheet on active...

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Mediator Tips: Resolve Conflict at Work

The latest “Mediator Tips” will be offered in person at our workshop on April 4, 2019. The title is - simply - Resolve Conflict at Work. Register here (tickets are just $20 each).

It’s a small, intensive workshop limited to just 12 participants. The participants should be managers, especially:

  • someone new to managing a team,

  • someone who wants to better understand how to manage a team for minimal conflicts and optimal engagement,

  • or someone who’s been managing people for a while but is dealing with a lot of different personalities - or conflicts!

angy-man-yells-into-phone

The workshop will cover how to build trust on your team in order to better manage conflict. We’ll also go over:

  • the impact of culture on conflict;

  • how to build trust on your team;

  • active listening skills;

  • identifying reactions to conflict (and what to do with that info);

  • resources to build your own ability to identify different emotional reactions;

  • and, when it’s best to...

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