conflict avoidance

“Dialogue is the most effective way of resolving conflict.”

– Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama

Last week’s blog introduced the idea of conflict avoidance. This week, we will provide a few simple ideas on how to avoid it.

For the record, I no longer participate in the activities I mentioned last week (worry, complain, enlist others to “fact find”, etc.). I’ve come to fully embrace the concept that the most compassionate course of action is based on these four steps:

  • Address it immediately and be direct
    • If there’s someone who isn’t doing what you believe they should be doing, ask them why. You’ll need to come at this from a genuine desire to learn why they’re not meeting expectations. Pull them aside and speak with them privately. It’s best to never do this in front of their peers.
    • If you hear a rumor about a specific person, listen. Provided it’s not a legal HR issue, bring the other person into the loop and ask them about the issue at hand. If either person has a different direct report, remember to bring them into the conversation as well.
  • Listen
    • This is important! Remember what you’re left with when you pull out (You “U”) and “ME” from “ASSUME”. Clearly understanding where someone is coming from and their reason(s) is critical. I sincerely believe that as managers, it’s our obligation to provide our employees with clear expectations and the tools they need to be successful. Having expectations is one of the key areas in which we often fail.
    • For water cooler gossip, there’s often a deeper issue that may arise, but letting things fester kills productivity. Be careful not to let this become a bitch session. Dig in and find out what exactly is the issue. Listen to what each person has to say. Identify if there’s really an issue or if it’s something of a different matter. If so, dive in and explore it!
  • Clearly define steps to solve that issue
    • Once you’ve heard what the person has said, take a few breaths, think it over, and do your best to understand their perspective. From here, repeat your understanding of what they’ve said back to them. Next, restate what you see as the expectations and verify they are in agreement. More often than not, the issue may be as simple as someone being unaware of what’s required of them. Clearly outline the necessary steps to guarantee this doesn’t happen again. A trick I like to use is to have that person send me an email with the specific next steps; this ensures they have to write it out, and I have a documented copy of it. This step confirms that we’re on the same page.
  • Follow up and be consistent
    • Finally, remember the issue at hand is likely something that you already know innately. This, however, is likely not the case for your employee, so you may have to remind them a few times. Please don’t get frustrated! Be as patient and consistent as you can. If it turns out that this isn’t something they’re built for, that’s okay – they will self-select out. Both parties will be spared a bunch of grief this way. If you say you’re going to check back in a week, make a note in your calendar and do it.
    • Once you’ve defined an issue, make sure to be consistent with not only that person, but everyone…especially yourself. It’s critical to lead by example.
    • Stay consistent with this approach, if this is a cultural change for your organization, be prepared that it may take some adjustment time for everyone involved. Know that change can be scary and people will test you. Stay consistent and stay on track.

Taking the time to do these basic steps will help you become more direct, increase productivity, and become more compassionate in enabling your team members to improve.

In short, if you’re having an issue, hit it head on. Ask, listen, dig, clarify, act, and follow-up. You’ll find yourself with more time and less worry.

Need assistance in resolving conflict avoidance? We’re here to help! Reach out anytime.

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