6 Steps for Leading Your Team Through Conflict

When it comes to the challenges managers face, conflict resolution can be one of the trickiest. You have to account for differing perspectives and individual employee needs while making sure the company doesn’t suffer a loss in productivity. The key is to have a repeatable process in place for leading your team through conflict.

Here are six steps to follow:

1. Create an Environment for Resolution

Whether you’re planning a one-on-one conference or a team meeting, a session devoted to dealing with conflict requires some advanced work setting the stage. You may want to consider “neutral” territory, like a conference room on a different floor or, in some circumstances, an offsite meeting. Then, get team members in a positive mindset before meeting by letting them know your goals are openness, constructive criticism, and problem-solving. Once everyone has gathered, open your remarks by emphasizing that you’re focused on charting a path forward, not relitigating past grievances.

2. Provide Background

The next step toward conflict resolution is recapping “our story so far.” Give context for the conflict and describe what you see as the current conflict. Be as specific, objective, and respectful as possible.

3. Consider All Perspectives

It may seem like a cliché, but it really is helpful to mentally walk a mile in the other person’s shoes. Make a good-faith effort to see the conflict from the viewpoint of all those entangled in it. Consider the motivations, needs, and experiences of others besides your own.

4. Find Common Ground

As you move toward the resolution stage, look for things everyone in attendance can agree on. For instance, you all want your team to succeed and for the company to meet its goals, resulting in rewards for everyone. These commonalities form a bridge that makes attacking a problem easier.

5. Work Through Resolutions

There’s a reason 80% of the word “resolution” is “solution.” Conflict management is, at its heart, problem-solving. If you approach it that way, it’s more likely your meeting will generate real answers than devolving into an airing of grievances.

6. Develop an Action Plan

Once you’ve gotten to the heart of the conflict and come up with a solution for working through it, back that up with a collaborative plan for handling the situation. Express thanks to everyone involved for their willingness to make things better. And commit to multiple follow-ups to make sure issues that have been resolved stay resolved.

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