Conflicts are bound to arise in every workplace. Whether they stem from differences in opinion, competing priorities, or misunderstandings, unresolved conflicts can lead to decreased productivity, damaged relationships, and a toxic work environment. We need to first define a conflict, it is when emotions run high, opinions are strong, and views are opposing. These three conditions create a cocktail that is like a perfect storm for a bring out the worst in people when they need to be their best. Typically this leads to the release of two stress hormones, namely cortisol and adrenaline to lead us to silence or verbal (and sometimes physical) violence.
According to a study conducted by CPP Global, a leading provider of conflict management solutions, 85 per cent of employees experienced conflict to some degree, with 29 per cent stating that it resulted in decreased productivity. To manage conflicts effectively, it is crucial to emphasise the benefits of conflict resolution. Research has shown that organisations that invest in conflict resolution training and promote open dialogue experience improved employee engagement and job satisfaction. By addressing conflicts in a healthy manner, teams can foster a more positive and collaborative work environment. By adopting effective dialogue strategies and crucial conversations, organisations can create a positive work environment that minimises the negative effects of conflicts and maximises productivity, employee well-being, and overall success.
Embracing Crucial Conversations
The culture and subsequent results (that the culture produces) are determined by a handful of conversations, when the opinion vary, emotions are strong and stakes are high. The ability to engage in such conversations with psychological safety and mutual respect is critical to resolving conflicts constructively.
By honing the art of crucial conversations, individuals can create a safe space where different perspectives can be shared and understood. It involves fostering mutual respect, actively listening to others, and seeking to understand their viewpoints. This approach promotes a culture of open dialogue and encourages all parties involved to contribute their ideas and concerns. The goal is not to avoid conflict but rather to address it in a respectful and productive manner.
Building Conversational Capacity
Conversational capacity refers to an individual’s ability to engage in dialogue under pressure or during challenging situations. It involves staying focused, remaining curious, and managing emotions effectively. By developing conversational capacity, individuals can maintain composure, think critically, and communicate constructively, even in the midst of conflict.
In a workplace setting, the ability to expand conversational capacity becomes even more crucial. It enables employees to engage in meaningful discussions without feeling overwhelmed or defensive. By acknowledging and managing their own emotions, individuals can create an environment conducive to problem-solving and collaboration. Moreover, an increased conversational capacity encourages the exploration of diverse perspectives, leading to more innovative and effective solutions.
The Importance of Effective Dialogue
Effective dialogue serves as the backbone of conflict management in the workplace. It allows individuals to express their concerns, clarify misunderstandings, and explore potential resolutions. When dialogue is approached with the intent of understanding rather than winning, conflicts can transform into opportunities for growth and learning.
Consider this situation, a senior manager gets upset with the direct report on the presentation they made to the group of middle managers. The senior manager calls the direct reports and in a gruff and menacing tone start telling him, how inappropriate the presentation was. The Direct report was confused about the topic, as they had reviewed it together before the presentation. He knew that people attack (verbal violence) when they feel unsafe. He listened respectfully and said, “I want you to know that I respect you as the leader, and if I have done something that we did not agree to, I would change that”. He continued (as the Leader started breathing again) “More important than the presentation itself is the relationship I want with you. I want for us to be able to discuss any misunderstanding or disagreement directly.” The leader relaxed a bit as the psychological safety was restored. The Direct report then continued the conversation to explain the context and content of the presentation. The big takeaway from this story is not that they were able to solve the problem and get on the same page. It was that established a path and precedence to solving issues while managing mutual respect.
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