Conflicts amongst team members and with managers often are the leading cause of why many staff end up leaving their jobs. Not to mention that, the loss of a staff member can have serious ramifications for your practice. In fact, research indicates that frequent turnover has a negative impact on employee morale, productivity, and company revenue because recruiting and training a new employee requires staff time and additional money. The cost of employee turnover alone is reason enough to ensure you’re prepared for inner office conflict when it arises, and conflict is generally considered to be inevitable so there’s no avoiding it, it will occur.
Believe it or not, leadership and conflict go hand-in-hand and if you are not willing to address conflict in a healthy, productive fashion, your leadership role could be in jeopardy. While you may try to avoid conflict, you cannot escape it because it will find you whether you look for it or not. Conflict rarely resolves itself, in fact, it normally escalates if it’s not dealt with proactively and properly. It is not uncommon to see what could have been a non-event become a massive problem if it is not resolved early on. Leaders who don’t deal with conflict will eventually watch their good talent walk out the door in search of a healthier work environment. While conflict is a normal part of any social and professional setting, the challenge of it lies in how we choose to deal with it. Thus, developing effective conflict resolution skill sets are essential to being a great leader and building a sustainable work environment.
There can be many underlying motives of conflict, such as performance issues, power struggles, compensation concerns, or just the fact that someone is simply having a bad day. The list can go on and on, but if we focus in on what the true problem is, there are really only two major causes of conflict – poor communication and not being able to control one’s emotions. Being able to recognize these causes will serve you well as the leader of your team. Knowing that a conflict exists, while being able to identify the nature of the problem, and then having the ability to bring it to a swift and just resolution is an opportunity for positive change, growth, and improvement.
Here are some strategies to help maximize your ability to smooth over any stumbling blocks you may encounter within your practice:
- Focus on behavior and events, not on personalities.
Describe specific instances instead of generalizing. Say “When this happens …” instead of “When you do …”.
- Listen carefully.
Actively listen to both parties, avoid interrupting, and ask questions to clarify your understanding. Put yourself in their position to get a true sense of what has motivated the issue.
- Talk it out.
Ask the people involved to name a time when it would be convenient to meet and arrange to meet in a place where you won’t be interrupted.
- Develop a plan.
Discuss which areas of conflict are most important to resolve and start with the most important issue. Focus on moving forward and set up future meeting times to continue your discussions.
- Don’t avoid conflict.
Address it head-on before it escalates.
- Stick to the facts.
It’s sometimes not possible to resolve a conflict, so it’s crucial to stick to the facts and ensure that no personal feelings or agendas enter into the equation.
- Focus on the lesson.
What would you do differently next time? What can you learn from this particular situation? How can the business benefit from the issues raised?
- Communicate your business values.
Leading by example, sharing your ‘why’ you do what you do, and stating your expectations will help you to recruit and retain like-minded employees.
- Create positive employee relations.
Happy employees will make your practice flourish! Treat all staff fairly, with dignity, respect, and transparency.
As the leader, if you employ these strategies with sincerity, you can overcome the immediate tension and move the communication toward a more productive phase. Congratulate everyone involved when progress is made, even if it’s just a small step. Your hard work will pay off when discussions eventually will give way to ongoing, friendly relationships. There’s no way to avoid conflict altogether, but if you are capable of carefully directing and resolving the friction, you’ll find you can improve progress for yourself, your staff, and the overall practice. In turn, your business will thrive and together as a team you will all deliver the results you aim for.