You have to put strategy, innovation, leadership development, growth, and other important-but-not-urgent initiatives on the back burner, even though these matters are vital for durable success.
Chronic workplace conflict consumes your time, saps your energy, increases anxiety, and adds frustration to everyday stress.
Sometimes the conflict is overt. People get into arguments, and meetings drag on endlessly as managers bicker back and forth but never seem to get anywhere. Silos become ends in themselves — your direct reports focus on looking good in their lanes but lose sight of the bigger picture.
Bureaucratic scheming happens below the surface. People ignore new demands without several prompts. Managers slow roll changes they oppose hoping that the new initiative implodes. The more aggressive practice guerilla warfare to undermine changes or stab their colleagues in the back. The most brazen do what they want to do and tell you what you want to hear.
Conflict consumes time and energy because it’s urgent and important: you must address it. You have to put strategy, innovation, leadership development, growth, and other important-but-not-urgent initiatives on the back burner, even though these matters are vital for durable success. You try to think through them in the evenings, but you are too exhausted and tired of sacrificing your family and other priorities to the hamster wheel at work. Chopping the same wood gets harder as your ax dulls.
It does not have to be this way.
Many leaders look for solutions in the wrong places. Play areas, company picnics, and more remote work opportunities can be good ideas, but they do not reduce or resolve conflict. The reduction in cognitive diversity among businesses is a new, alarming trend. More CEOs reportedly surround themselves with people who share their political opinions and get rid of those who don’t.
Professional workplace conflict can only be about two issues: goals and ways to achieve them.
That’s it. Period.
By isolating the source of the disagreement, you can manage conflict and strengthen your team. Here are some action steps to help you do that.
1. Check commitment to the goal. Ensure you are framing the objective to include the “SO THAT” — the results or outcomes you aim to achieve. “Improve our pre-execution process SO THAT we reduce the number of expensive mistakes and improve cost forecasting.” If all parties agree on the destination, the conflict is about ways to get there.
2. Understand the options. Ways are tricky to resolve because they involve differing facts, interpretations, and prescriptions.
Ask people to put their prescriptions on the table, so everyone is clear on the options. Have them note the reasons for their position and what factors would cause them to change it. This approach improves open-mindedness.
3. Establish the relevant facts. You need to be working from a common data set, or you’ll spin your wheels.
4. What do the facts mean? Interpretations of the relevant data are the source of most “ways disagreements.” Some of the filters people use are status quo, confirmation bias, and risk aversion. Get the mental models into the open. Once the interpretations are aligned or differences are clear, then you can debate the ways forward.
5. Discuss the prescriptions. If the matter is time-sensitive, you might need to gather input and decide yourself. Otherwise, you can improve buy-in by letting your subordinates develop a solution or present you with options for decision.
If everyone agrees on the goals and ways but workplace conflict persists, you have an unprofessional personal dispute; you should fire the people responsible.
Do you want to discuss one of your workplace conflicts? Reply to this email or Schedule a call. https://callSLA.as.me/Chris
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Working with Chris has helped me visualize and communicate more clearly, gain the buy-in that inspires greater performance, and put my subordinates in positions to succeed.
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