C-Suite Advisory

HOW TO HANDLE WORKPLACE CONFLICT

Conflict in business life is as inevitable as it is within families – it’s baked into our human DNA. So, it’s important that you know how to cope with it when it inevitably rears its ugly head. Handling conflict well not only diffuses the immediate tension but can also lead to a trusting, long-term partnership. The most important thing to remember is that when someone’s angry, they need someone else to acknowledge their anger and hear about what has upset them. Once this understanding has been established, the solution is often surprisingly easy to find.

Regardless of how the conflict came about, there is an approach that has been proven to help alleviate the situation every time. It requires you to be ‘ALERT’ to any potential problems. If you detect an issue early, you have an opportunity to address it before it grows into a festering ball of anger and frustration. The following framework is designed to help you handle any confrontational situation effectively:

ACKNOWLEDGE

The first step it to acknowledge that the person you’re dealing with is unhappy. It helps to say something like, ‘I can see that you’re unhappy about the situation.’ Showing that you empathize with the disgruntled person goes a long way towards calming them down.

LISTEN

If you listen well to understand the issue in detail, it makes the person realize that you genuinely want to help resolve the situation.

EXPLORE

Try exploring potential solutions by asking questions such as, ‘What would help most?’ And test options by asking, ‘How about if…?’

RATIFY

If you reach a mutually acceptable agreement, take time to describe it clearly, confirm your commitment to it and check whether the other party is happy with it.

THANK

At the end of the discussion, thank the person for taking the trouble to highlight the issue and for spending time with you to resolve it.

The process outlined above has been proven to be highly effective. What’s important is that the person appreciates that their point of view has been heard and that you’ve done something to make amends based on what they’ve said. Handling conflict well requires all the skills described in Chapter 2: listening to the person to understand their anger, judging how to handle the situation based on their personality and establishing what they’re seeking to achieve.


Written by Dan White.

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Dan White
Dan White is a marketing connoisseur, established thought leader and independent brand consultant. He carries a 25-year career as CMO and methodology specialist within the Insights division of Kantar. He is also author of The Smart Marketing Book: The Definitive Guide to Effective Marketing Strategies (LID Publishing, 2020) and The Soft Skills Book: The Key Difference To Becoming Highly Effective and Valued.


Dan White is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.