What is workplace conflict costing you in turn over, poor customer service and/or missed opportunities?
I recently did seminars on poor multi-generational communication, bullying, and a non-respectful workplace for three different large companies. Each of these companies spends tons of money and resources on job training.
These “symptoms” grow out of a similar root problem… little to no investment in soft skills development for supervisors and managers. In organizations where poor behavior is tolerated, ignored or poorly handled, tensions simmer and escalate. Often people in the top leadership positions aren’t aware of just how bad the impact is.
Or worse, sometimes they don’t care.
These tensions affect customer service as well as productivity lost because of sick days, turn over, or employees who go through the motions to stay out of the fray. While these were very large companies, the same dynamic affects small organizations as well.
My advice is invest in your leadership capacity for people skills.
Practice Conflict Management Skills
There are plenty of terrific books about how to have crucial conversations or books about social and emotional intelligence. But reading about the concepts is just the beginning.
Folks need a safe way to practice these skills. Why is experiential practice critical? No one enjoys conflict so many managers shy away from having tough conversations because they lack the confidence to have them without causing collateral damage. By practicing and getting feedback you learn to successfully have respectful and authentic conversations about tough subjects.
When you have the capacity to manage delicate tensions, you model ways to air diverse opinions. (Divergent thinking is also important to innovation.)
If you have the confidence to tackle and effectively manage conflict you can engage conflicting agendas for better solutions.
How do you get practice? Ask a peer or mentor to role play your tough conversation then ask them for feedback on what they noticed about how you listened and/or were responsive to what they were saying.
I’m not talking about debate skills. I mean deep listening skills where you ask curious questions to understand instead of trying to persuade. Often times during highly emotional exchanges, people repeat themselves over and over if they don’t feel they are getting their point across or they don’t feel that their point of view is acknowledged. That dynamic escalates emotion for you and for them.
You should also be able and willing to search for the truth in other perspectives so you acknowledge points on which you agree. It takes practice.
One final point that is perhaps the most important one. You also need to embody respectful intention. I always prepare for every tough conversation with this question I ask myself:
“How can I have this conversation in a way that maintains dignity and respect for others?”