October 11, 2016

A better way to approach workplace conflicts

Daily Briefing

    Conflict in the workplace can be detrimental to team progress and the company as a whole.

    Managers should take quick action to remediate conflict and limit collateral damage, writes John Rampton, an investor, online marketer, and founder of the online payment company Due. Rampton offers seven suggestions on how to approach workplace conflicts.

    1. Find the root of the problem

    Rampton says that conflict often stems from something beyond differing personalities. Different points of view, external pressures, lack of resources, high expectation from management, and too much time spent together can all contribute to conflict.

    "The sooner you can pinpoint the main culprits, the sooner you can address their concerns," says Rampton, who believes that managers shouldn't opt for a hands-off approach to team conflict.

    How to navigate conflict gracefully

    2. Establish open communication

    After pinpointing the source of the conflict, Rampton suggests hashing it all out through an open conversation. During this conversation, Rampton says managers need to play the role of moderator, so as to maintain order and guide rules.

    "Talking it out also requires active listening," says Rampton. Understanding context is vital for addressing conflict.

    3. Encourage employees to put the company first

    The point of a team, Rampton notes, is to achieve tasks that individuals cannot complete on their own. Rampton suggests reminding squabblers that they have at least one thing in common: They're both working for the broader success of the team.

    And don't forget, Rampton says: When the company succeeds, everyone benefits.

    4. Propose a possible compromise

    Encouraging team members to negotiate might prompt them to realize that peace requires only a relatively small sacrifice.

    For example, Rampton says that he once disagreed with a team member about the best way to complete a task—so he let his team member have his way on part of it. Rampton says this not only smoothed over the relationship, but also relieved his stress about the project.

    5. Encourage people to chat outside of the office

    Sometimes, people in a disagreement just need "time alone to get to figure out where [the other is] coming from," argues Rampton. When team members get to know one another outside the context of the office, often the work atmosphere will become more relaxed and natural.

    6. Don't let team members spend too much time together

    Teamwork has its limitations, which is why Rampton suggests using the divide-and-conquer method when it seems team members are getting on each other's nerves. In many cases, Rampton says, "it simply helps people get along better when they aren't forced to get along so often."

    7. As a last resort, switch up the team

    Though usually the first six methods will do the trick, Rampton says that sometimes "the reality is that the team chemistry is just wrong." In this case, moving team members around and pairing them with others who better match their values and skills could be the best route.

    No matter what, says Rampton, steer clear of punishing or threatening team members during a conflict—it will only make it worse (Rampton, Fast Company, 10/6).

    Stress less and do more every day

    Many of us are saddled with seemingly endless to-do lists every day. It seems like there's never enough time. But research shows that about 40 percent of what we think we have to do actually isn't that important, and just serves to distract us from what needs to be done.

    Join Advisory Board experts on Wednesday, October 19 for 15 minute webconference, where you'll learn three tactics for separating what must be done from what could be done, so that you feel less overwhelmed and can make more of an impact every day.

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