Throughout mid-February, my focus often shifted to the Winter Olympics. Oddly, while I follow just a few sports throughout the year, the Olympics has been a longtime favorite, grabbing my attention for wild snowboarding, altitude-defying freestyle skiing, immeasurably gorgeous figure skating, crazy fast luge, bob sleds and more. I’ve always been a huge fan of human achievement created through ultra-levels of commitment to a personal goal; the Olympics personify that.
Yet, this year, the Olympics packed an even bigger dramatic punch: the host country is reviled for its history on human rights, Russia (banned from the Olympics under its country name) was poised to invade neighboring Ukraine – possibly during the event – medal-worthy athletes who tested positive for Covid were sent home before their events and a huge doping scandal erupted over a15-year-old figure skater who was allowed to compete and then fell apart on the ice.
That’s a lot to take in during 16 days. And, while I hope your business never experiences the high stakes range of tricky situations we watched play out on our tv’s, I’ll bet it sometimes happens in your workplace too: employee conflicts, missed deadlines, dashed expectations for contracts, unexpected competitive activity, raised costs and sometimes all at once. How do you handle such disruption yet keep production and morale on track?
First, let’s acknowledge that there are times when conflict acts as a disrupter on the norm, creating breakthroughs to new and appealing ideas, processes and relationships.
Yet, when dealing with conflict that appears to have no real upside, Human Resource professionals have identified 5 major styles of conflict management:
As may seem instinctive, competing might be a style of resolution you’d engage when your adversary is outside your business, such as a competitor in your industry. When using it in your business (unless you employ it as a contest during placid times rather than as a solution during times of turmoil) you’re not going to repair or nurture relationships, so important to a small business.
The avoiding style can do harm to your role as a leader and undermine your authority the next time you want to assert it with your team.
The point is, it’s necessary to consider the longer-term impact of your chosen method when attempting to smooth unsettling situations.
You also want to take into account the behavioral style of the other parties. Myers-Briggs and DISC behavioral assessments are great tools to understand the observable behavior of your team and respond in a way they’ll find comforting. Even in placid times, these tools can be ideal to help you communicate smoothly and create teams and team roles that naturally emphasize the behavioral style of each employee.
When the conflict is not with your team but, rather, external situations your goal is always to focus on your priorities. Some crises may be upsetting to others in your organization yet not for you or your own urgencies. Don’t let others transfer their upset to you simply because you’re the boss or because they’ve not taken the time to find a working solution.
When conflict is with an outside vendor, you may want to ‘deputize’ the employee whose leadership style or familiarity with the situation not only makes them the right choice, it also advances their role within your business and make result in a useful delegation choice.
Of course, there are some conflicts – harassment, injuries, drugs, theft – that call for professional intervention that may be beyond your role to handle. Whether police or medical professionals are needed, your Human Resource professional, along with your operations manual, will guide you. While we certainly don’t wish such difficult circumstances on you, we’re expert in Human Relations law and policy creation will assist you, whether in severe or just annoying employee-based scenarios.