Monday, November 2, 2009

Managing Conflicts

At a recent workshop with hospital supervisors a question was posed along the lines of why is conflict management so difficult? And by inference, often so unsuccessful.

I put forward a perspective that as managers we focus primarily on the term 'management' - in other words having a solution. The risk here is that we move to the solution phase to quickly, before we have spent time actually determining the facts of the conflict.

Conflicts are emotionally driven events. People relate their experiences as interpretation of what took place. They don't always intend to mislead; though they do intend to present their perspective in a manner that reflects their desired outcome. They also use emotions to bully their manager towards making a quick decision. Conflicts rarely arise from an instantaneous set of circumstances; they often build up over a prolonged period of time. This can add to the complexity of the situation. The more complex the situation the more difficult it can be to resolve.

Take a step back. Ask questions. Facilitate conversations. It is unlikely you will have the answer yourself, instead you need to enable the outcome to emerge through skillful questioning and conversation. Instead of setting yourself up to be the fall person, be seen as the one that facilitates an outcome. In this way you shift the responsibility for the outcome back to those directly engaged in the conflict.

Yes this takes time. You have plenty of time. Believe me an unresolves, or poorly resolved conflict will take far more of you time and energy that all the time you spend establishing the truth before moving towards a decision. Suspend judgment and seek to establish the facts - when the evidence is on the table it is much, much easier for all parties to move towards a self selected resolution.

Let The Journey Continue

John Coxon
Taking You From Frontline Manager to CEO
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