Berger Leadership Blog

Dec 03, 2021 by B. Dan Berger

How do you manage conflict?

Individuals tend to deal with difficult situations in different ways; and as leaders, it’s important to recognize our natural tendencies as we go about dealing with conflict in the workplace.

In a recent Forbes article by Anna Shields, she highlights three ways people manage conflict, and her tips for the best way to do so. These different conflict-management styles include:

1. Ignoring, or “The Ostrich”

Conflict can be scary, so a common approach from some is to simply ignore the issue. A busy manager may feel that they don’t have the time to deal with it, hoping it will go away or resolve itself. However, this technique normally backfire as the issue usually grows overtime into something bigger.

2. Fixing, or “The DIYer”

Many leader’s ‘go-to’ approach is to fix conflict. To ‘fix’, a manager may speak to the parties involved, find out the facts, come up with a resolution and deliver it as their decision. Some drawbacks of this technique include people feeling that their choices are being taken away or controlled by the leader, in addition to denying people the opportunity to learn important conflict-management skills themselves.

3. Formalizing, or “The Bureaucrat”

The third conflict-management style is to direct team members to formal channels, such as reporting HR. Although there are instances where issues need to be reported, this approach can make the situation worse by lengthening the revival process and dividing teams further.

Shields also addresses the most beneficial conflict-management style that leaders can utilize - the “Owl” approach. Since an owl can turn its head nearly 360 degrees, managers can copy this technique by looking out for potential issues before they blow up. In addition, looking at the world from a wide range of perspectives is an important skill. Similar to an owl, as leaders it’s also our duty to offer wisdom for our employees in times of struggle.

Which style do you utilize?

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