Conflict is an unavoidable part of working as a team. It doesn’t have to mean open hostility or arguing – it can be an internal feeling between people, or simply people with two opposing ideas that each think theirs is better. As a team leader, it’s crucial that you’re able to resolve this in a way that makes everyone feel as though they have been listened to and treated fairly, and to come up with a resolution that the team feels confident with going forward. You need to act quickly to minimise any negative feelings, and to help everyone move on as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to create an environment where people feel comfortable reporting conflict, and talking about any concerns they have.
There are several steps that you can take to solve a team conflict. You need to be an impartial figure throughout this process, and hear both sides equally throughout the dispute.
1. Identify the conflict. Even if they feel a conflict with someone, many people will choose to ignore this, instead behaving passive aggressively or simply withdrawing from the team. Identifying and getting everyone to agree to what the problem is is the first step. You need to use your discretion as to whether to only involve the immediate people, or to talk to your entire team about it. Sometimes an issue affects everyone, but sometimes its better left private. Discuss what the conflict is, and how it’s affecting their performance.
2. Get both parties to agree to communicate and participate. This is a very important step psychologically, as it’s essential that both people involved actively want to make a resolution. If someone doesn’t want to resolve the issue, you may need to delve further into why that is and whether they really feel comfortable on the team.
3. Clarify positions. Much of the time, a conflict will be the result of a misunderstanding, or of not quite seeing something in the same way, or of making an assumption. Communicating each position and establishing how each person feels and sees the situation is often all that’s needed to get to the bottom of a conflict.
4. Analyse together. Involving both parties, talk over the different aspects of the conflict and why each person believes they are right. Weigh up pros and cons, research into areas where they may be dispute, or talk to other members of the team for their opinion on the issue.
Conflict resolution is an essential part of a healthy team, and being able to reach a resolution that benefits everyone creates a stronger working environment and happier workers.
More resources for resolving team conflict peacefully: