People generally dislike or avoid conflict. It makes them uncomfortable so ignoring escalating issues is an approach adopted by many. However, when addressed early and effectively it can help clear tensions, address underlying issues and lead to innovation. So what are the signs of conflict and what causes conflict to escalate?
1. Dismissing Concerns
When employees raise an issue more than once it is clear the issue is of importance or the issue hasn’t been adequately addressed. Brushing the employee off with a comment such as “we discussed this already so let’s move on” is unsatisfactory. The person needs to fully understand the rationale behind the approach being taken and time needs to be given to discussing it. Once discussed and explored a statement closing the issue needs to be made e.g. “Now that we’ve explored this issue and understand what we have now agreed to do, we need to move to implementing our decision.”
2. Undermining Decisions
Teams need to agree the decision-making process and adhere to it. If an individual doesn’t adhere to the process then the decision is undermined and is more likely to result in conflict. Watch for signs that decisions are being undermined. Remind your team of the decision making process and the importance of sticking to that process.
3. Interpersonal Conflict
Requests for change in working habits or working teams is often an indication that an issue exists. Perhaps it’s nothing and the reasons behind the request are personal. Great. Now you can address it. However, it may be more. It may be that there is an issue between individuals within the team. If left unaddressed this will generally escalate and could possibly result in the individual claiming bullying exists. Keep the lines of communication open and make sure you regularly check in with employees that all is going well. Caught early there are many options available to you for addressing the issue. Left too long and your limited options may narrow to the least favoured one: litigation.
Tricia Cunningham is a partner and business advisor at LEAP.