What's The Big Deal About Workplace Conflict?
Concurrent with the rise of "helicopter parenting" there's been a marked increase in the number of leaders who insist on hovering over their people. They're there, ready to pounce on the first hint of conflict, to step in when emotions run high, to apply the proverbial Band-Aid. If your place of business has started to resemble the sandbox, and you're spending more of your time trying to keep your people from squabbling over the same toy or kicking sand in each other's faces, it's time to step back.
Repeat After Me: Figure. It. Out.
When you get in the middle of normal, everyday - healthy - conflict, you stymie your people's ability to resolve it and to learn from it. For example, say two direct reports approach you with the following scenario:
"Hey, boss. Sally and I are having a difficult time coming to an agreement on the direction for this client presentation, and we're both getting frustrated. Could you listen to our options and give us some suggestions?"
What are you, their mother? The appropriate response is, "Figure it out." Always. And they can - if you give them the space and freedom to do so.
"Joe's been in the staff lounge for three hours, taking selfies and updating his dog's Instagram account. It's throwing the rest of us off schedule. Plus, it's the third time this week. And he ate my Chobani."
Apparently, this individual didn't get the memo: no one likes a tattle-tale. Still, as a leader, you must help them navigate the situation. "Figure it out" will work, but why not take the opportunity to help your people develop their own leadership skills?
Try: "Take care of it for me." People respond positively when their leaders trust them with added responsibility, and it doesn't get any better than acting as Sheriff to their peers.That's pretty much it. Our society has over-complicated conflict, turning it into some jumbled mess that takes up endless hours of your time. No need at all for it to interrupt your day. Instead, you can use these little incidents as opportunities to teach your people to "figure it out" or "take care of it for you." Feel free to add your own unique spin to these phrases, but the core message will remain the same.
And the core message of this article is to do the exact opposite of what it says.