Conflicts are unavoidable when working as part of a team. We all have different points of view, opinions, and ways of doing things. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
Many times it can be beneficial and helps us broaden our points of view and ways of completing the same task or project. During the actual process of working together, though, sometimes our differences can lead to heated discussions, hurt feelings, roadblocks, and could even potentially jeopardize a project.
There’s a lot of ways you can choose to deal with conflict in a team setting. You can ignore it, be passive-aggressive about it, get angry and upset about it, etc. Maybe you like to point fingers and blame others. Perhaps you’re like me and have little patience in general and get easily frustrated at someone’s pace of work.
While there are many ways to handle conflict, some of them can help us resolve things quicker than others and lead to better outcomes. Let’s take a look at five ways to manage conflict in a team effectively.
1. Acknowledge and Accept the Conflict
Many people avoid conflict like the plague. They pretend it’s not happening. They ignore it and go on about their business. For a wide variety of reasons, many people are conditioned to believe that conflict is inherently bad and simply don’t know how to deal with it.
By taking the “ignore the problem and pretend it isn’t there” approach, the only thing that’s going to happen is that it will take longer to work out and probably get messier.
The first tip to manage conflict in a team effectively is to acknowledge the conflict. Don’t be shy about speaking out about it. Maybe something like: “Jim, it seems you don’t agree with the approach we’ve been talking about. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what we’ve discussed so far. I’m sure everyone agrees that having multiple points of view will help us see the issue from all angles.”
2. Don’t Jump In and Overreact
Here’s the one that speaks volumes to me. When you feel yourself getting upset while working in a team, make sure you don’t jump in and start talking without thinking it through.
This is what has happened to me on more than a few occasions. Every time I feel my blood pressure rising while listening to another team member talking or reading an email that I don’t generally agree with, I try to take a pause. I pause and take a few deep breaths and calm myself down. Believe me, there have been plenty of times when I simply reacted without thinking and each time, the result was not optimal.
When I take the time to let it digest and not react quickly, the situation always turns out better. Sometimes, it’s that I have given myself the time to simply calm down before I fire off that scathing email. Other times, I can see another point of view other than my own and am not as upset as I originally was.
In any event, it’s always better to not simply go with your gut reaction when you don’t agree with another team member. Slow down, and don’t overreact.
3. Ensure Everyone Gets Heard and Valued
As you work your way through the discussions to address the disagreement, it’s important that everyone is heard and feels that their opinion is valued.
Let’s not forget that feeling understood is one of the deepest needs we have as humans. When we feel understood, we feel valued and validated, which are critical to our happiness. Remembering this, ensure that everyone who was involved in the disagreement gets their chance to be both heard and understood.
It does not have to be something overly formal like ensuring that everyone gets their 10 minutes to talk. It’s more about making sure that those who are upset get the chance to have their voice be heard.
If I am part of a group that is comprised of a team of six but has no issues with the disagreement, it’s not a big deal for me to be heard. If I am one of the two people having a disagreement, you can bet it’s pretty important for me to be able to talk about my point of view.
4. Recap the Discussions
Now, it’s your turn to talk. Hopefully, by this point, all of the parties in disagreement have had the opportunity to speak and be heard. At this juncture, it’s on you to play back what you’ve heard from everyone to ensure you’ve gotten it right.
If someone tells you that you are incorrect on one point or another, adjust accordingly. The goal here is to ensure that not only have you heard and interpreted correctly but also that the team has as well. By the end of this stage, everyone should be on the same playing field and have a really good understanding of what everyone else thinks about the situation.
Recapping the discussions has an additional beneficial outcome as well. By recapping what everyone has heard, it gives the entire team a great overview of what everyone else is thinking and how they feel.
Oftentimes, what happens in this type of scenario is people begin to see other people’s points of view. It has a sort of softening effect where people can better understand others’ thoughts and how they feel about the situation. Many times, this helps propel things forward.
5. Get Everyone’s Buy-In
As a direct result of recapping the discussions, now is the perfect time to get everyone’s buy-in moving forward. Of course, many times it doesn’t immediately flow from recapping the discussions. But often, this is the point where people feel more comfortable offering solutions or being willing to compromise.
If someone insisted on A, B, and C happening before giving it the final okay, perhaps they are now comfortable with just A and B. The goal here is to work through the disagreement points to get to a place where everyone feels like they were heard, valued, and are good with moving forward as a team.
Sometimes, you have to remind people that you are all on the same team and working towards the same goal to get people to give a little.
As an example, I am a recruiter. It’s not uncommon for me to work on brand new positions that the company has not had before. In many cases, the hiring manager has built the perfect candidate in their mind without actually thinking through if someone with the experience they are looking for actually exists.
I can tell you from recent personal experience that I have worked on two such positions in which I asked the hiring manager to tell me the name of someone who could do this job. When I received the blank look back, it gave me the exact right opportunity to remind them that we are both on the same team, working towards the same goal, and what can we do together to reach our goal. Perhaps a bit of compromise would be beneficial?
Anytime we are working as a team on a project or to achieve a goal, there are bound to be differences of opinion that lead to conflict. This is the nature of being human. Remember that conflict is not necessarily a bad thing. In many ways, it’s healthy and can lead to bigger and better results when working as part of a team. The important thing is that there are healthy ways to resolve this conflict and get everyone on the same page.
The next time a conflict rears its head in a group, remember the five ways to manage conflict in a team effectively. Don’t be that person who is prone to reacting immediately with less than optimal results. Use these steps to learn to acknowledge the conflict, don’t jump in and overreact, make sure you listen to everyone, recap the discussions, and get everyone’s buy-in.
More Tips on How to Manage Conflict in a Team
- How To Handle Personality Conflicts At Work
- Conflict Management: How to Turn Any Conflicts into Opportunities
- Conflict Management Styles for Effective Communication at Work
Featured photo credit: TienDat Nguyen via unsplash.com