Conflict conversations make the job of a manager more difficult. Besides the fact that the numbers have to be right, problems have to be solved and long-term strategies have to be developed, a manager also has to put out fires and resolve conflicts. A conflict discussion in one's own team is a real challenge and at the same time a situation that probably every manager experiences in the course of his or her professional career.
There are many reasons for this because wherever people work together, there can also be misunderstandings, differing expectations and mistakes that trigger a conflict between two or more people. Since this disturbs the team structure and cooperation, a conflict should not be accepted silently. Often, an attempt is made to avoid further inflaming the conflict by remaining silent and to preserve harmony, instead of simply having conflict conversations. Unfortunately, avoiding the necessary confrontation with the situation that has occurred or different opinions, leads in the long run to a loss of trust and solidarity and thus to hardened fronts or an even greater conflict.
The drama of conflict in a team is most evident in the business consequences and personal impact on people. According to one study, at the time of the survey, a full 25% of the people surveyed were in conflict at work. As effects, the interviewed persons describe above all:
and also physical symptoms such as
On a business level, consequential costs can be calculated due to, among other things
Every single one of these consequences of conflict should be worth addressing at an early stage through conflict conversations - in reality, to make matters worse, these consequences seldom occur alone, but rather accumulate into a complex of problems. With 25% of employees affected, this results in a considerable burden that adds up to massive follow-up costs.
Therefore, we would like to support you with the following tips for a good conflict conversation in order to avoid or end these effects on your team. With a well-planned conflict discussion and a win-win solution, the motivation of the conflict participants can often be increased even beyond the previous level, since the participants feel taken seriously and the solution contributes to improved working conditions.
The simple answer is: No, unfortunately not. Because there are many different types, conditions and backgrounds through which critical situations can arise. Let's take a look at just one of many aspects:
Whether you as a leader are part of the conflict or not in the resolution process has a serious impact on how you yourself can resolve the conflict. A classic two-way conflict in day-to-day management can, for example, be poor performance or certain misconduct on the part of employees. This conflict can generally be resolved very well through well-prepared and executed 1:1 conflict discussions. In another case, part of the team may be in conflict with the manager, triggered, for example, by unfortunate communication or a management style that is unsuitable for the employees. This conflict will be difficult for the manager to resolve alone, as he or she is personally involved and the reasons and drivers of the conflict are less easily revealed. This is more easily accomplished by a neutral person who is involved as a mediator in the conflict conversation. The third possibility is that a conflict is taking place within the team that is independent of the leader. In this case, the leader can take on the neutral mediating role, but there is a risk that, as part of the system, he or she will become a party to the conflict as a result of this “interference”. Therefore, it is recommended to involve an external mediator as a neutral third party in larger, hardened conflicts.
When you enter the room and the sparks are literally flowing, you immediately notice that there is a conflict going on. However, there are also conflicts that are not apparent at first glance because they are bubbling under the surface and are quiet and silent. In distinguishing between them, we speak of hot and cold conflicts.
The hot conflicts that are openly acted out are easily recognizable, thus easier to handle and solve. The issue and the parties involved are open and can be directly involved in the conflict conversations.
It is more difficult with the cold conflicts because these are to be recognized only by exact looking and listening. Often, destructive behavior, blockades and minimized, formal contact between team members can be perceived. When these behaviors are perceived, the first thing to do is to find out who is involved and what the history of the conflict is. This is because in order to get into conflict resolution, it is important to know the antecedents because cold conflicts are often the result of hot conflicts that have not been satisfactorily resolved. Thus, many unpleasant feelings and stressful situations have accumulated in the course of the conflict. In order to be able to enter into conflict resolution at all, this conflict must first be openly named. Only then can conflict discussions take place.
We see that in many cases the manager can solve the conflict well on his own or with mediative support. Conflict conversations are a challenge, but with appropriate preparation, a systematic approach and empathic communication, it becomes a win-win situation for everyone involved.
We have summarized some tips that will give you confidence in conducting the conversation and reliably initiate the resolution process:
S as in: describe the facts
"I noticed that..."
A as in: Describe impact
"To me, this means..."
G like: Name feelings
"It makes me feel..."
E like: Asking how he/she sees the situation
"What is your view of it? How did it come about?"
S as in: find conclusion
"For the future, I wish for ... / What do you wish for?"
Preventing conflicts, however, is more resource-efficient than going through the emotionally exhausting and time-consuming conflict resolution process afterwards. When human relationships falter, the impact on effective teamwork is immense; accordingly, conflict prevention is an important leadership task to avoid this spiral.
Investing in prevention, for example through relationship management, appreciative and empathetic communication, and a good flow of information, not only pays off in avoiding conflict, but also improves collaboration and thus the performance of the team as a whole.
So investing time, conversation, and attention in prevention and conflict resolution pays off. If you use the techniques described above, it is not that difficult to resolve even seemingly intractable conflicts satisfactorily. And in case of doubt, you can always call in a mediator.
And everything is a question of perspective, because the positive thing about a well-resolved conflict talks is that it has revealed a necessary need for change and that all parties to the conflict undergo personal development in the resolution process. Thus, a conflict that has been overcome can actually be seen as a win-win situation. And the same effect has a lived open discussion culture, through which actual conflicts are avoided.
If you would like to deal with the topic even more intensively or prepare your managers for difficult conflict discussions, we can recommend our communication training "Employee discussions - further development through appreciation". In this training, we show you how to get the message across in a targeted manner, strike the right tone, find the right words and react appropriately and sensitively to emotions in annual meetings, salary negotiations, disciplinary meetings or even meetings to recognize special achievements.