Resolve Conflict Productively

Conflict in high conflictperformance organizations is unavoidable and can often lead to reduced productivity and ineffective employee teamwork but successful organizations are effective at resolving conflict and building on it. Too many owners and senior managers instill conflict so that they keep their organization on the edge. However, pointless and intentional conflict is non-productive leading to organizations that are ineffective, breeding mistrust and insecurity.

Several years ago a client complained of a recurring incident with one of his key field project managers over what he considered to be a core performance issue. I was familiar with the project manager and when I approached him on the subject he viewed the incident from a completely different perspective. This revealed an obvious communication problem. I invited both the owner (my client) and the project manager to a breakfast meeting along with another peer project manager. I described the issue that was of concern to the owner and both project managers immediately described a broader set of circumstances that the owner was not considering when looking only at the one issue.

To his credit the owner recognized the problem immediately. While he was upset over the issue he had never taken the time to sit down and explain his reasoning on why he felt it was a job requirement that the project managers should perform first over all other priorities. His past method of dealing with it when he observed this occurring was to get excited and to take over instead of sitting down and going through what he felt should have been done and to understand why it had not been performed.

The project managers commented after the meeting that it was the first time that they had really talked about the business with the owner and that they now felt they had a good base line on which to discuss other issues with the owner instead of experiencing a blow up and confused signals as they interacted with him in the field.

Six months later I asked the owner how things were going with the project managers and he said that as a result of the breakfast meeting many other issues had been dealt with and the project mangers were doing very well and were now managing more project dollars – cost effectively – than they had before.

The key here was resolving the conflict quickly and establishing a foundation for communication and implementing a policy to resolve misunderstanding rather than carrying frustration and mistrust about on a daily basis. Resolving conflict is not a function of who wins and who loses, but the company being more effective and productive with employees who are confident that they can interact effectively in demanding situations and when needed, quickly get to the bottom of conflict issues, resolving them efficiently, and in the end building a stronger organization.

If you are the owner of a company or senior manager look for ways to reveal conflict in your organization.

  • Make contact with your employees informally so that they can see that you are approachable and can share issues of concern.
  • Be proactive in discussing “conflict” issues that will encourage feedback and identify who and what are at issue.
  • Follow-up to make sure that the conflict has not resurfaced under different cover.
  • If necessary, remove chronic sources of conflict through reassignment, reorganization or release from the company.

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