How to Handle Conflict and Confrontation

Written by Chukwuma Asala for Gaebler Ventures

Conflict is inevitable when people are involved. Egos and emotions are always being tested and as such it takes a person with good knowledge of conflict resolution to help alleviate situations in an organization that otherwise if left untouched could be disastrous. This article will talk about some of the different aspects of handing conflict and confrontation.

Any interaction involving disagreement can be classified as a conflict.

It is important to note that conflict itself is not bad but poorly handled conflict however is what is detrimental to an organization. Poorly handled conflict causes anxiety, tension and stress in the workplace, reduces morale and hinders productivity.

Confrontations are similar in that they could potentially involve a high degree of tension if care is not taken and morale and productivity can also be hindered.

Handling conflict and confrontation is not something that comes naturally to anyone. There are skills that you can use to help alleviate some of the problems if not remove all of the problems that come with conflict and confrontation.

Skills can be learned so you're in luck if this is something you currently struggle with. Here are some on confronting people, handling conflict and addressing concerns. As a leader remember that it is not a question of if you will have conflict in your organization but when, so take a look at these and start apply them right away.

Examine Your Intentions

In nearly all relational situations, it is much more productive to go into a confrontation keeping the other person's interest in mind. It will put you in the right frame of mind and will lower the temperature if there is any.

Try and go into a confrontation or conflict situation with the goal of making it a win for both parties. And if you attempt to ensure the other person wins first, then you know you have the more beneficial perspective. Remember that it is more important to get everyone back on track and unified than to exercise your authority or position.

The choice is always either win the battle and lose the war, or lose this battle for the sake of the organization. The point here is you don't have to be right all the time because you're a leader. You do have to make sure everyone else knows what the right thing to do is and it is your responsibility to enforce that the right thing is always done. Examine your intentions and you will always end up putting the big picture first.

Meet Together As Soon As Possible

Whenever conflict arises we are tempted to either avoid it or procrastinate in dealing with it. But the truth is that anytime you let conflicts go unchecked they only get worse. If people are left to start speculating about another person's motives or to figure out what might have really happened, they often think the worst. Putting off confrontation only causes the situation to fester.

Even worse is letting things build up to the point where there are so many things you need to unload on someone now that there is no way to do it without creating tension and animosity from them. It's never a good idea to save up a bunch of stuff and then give a person a history lesson during a confrontation.

Meet together right away, in private and face-to-face. Only confront someone by phone if it is absolutely impossible to do so otherwise but under no circumstances should you confront someone via e-mail. That shows a lack of respect on all levels.

Seek to Understand First

A significant hurdle to positive conflict resolution is having too many preconceived notions going into a confrontation. There's a saying that the person who gives an opinion before he understands is human, but a person who gives judgment before he understands is a fool.

Most employees would advocate that we have a lot more fools than human beings in management than management would like to believe. Once again it is important to remember the whole point of why you are confronting this person. You cannot reach an understanding if your focus is entirely on yourself.

on helping the person communicate their feelings on when, what and why the situation either happened or keeps occurring and then and only then can you make a move to share your thoughts on the matter. A lot of conflict resolution involves asking the right questions not having all the answers. Listen more and talk less and you'll find the confrontations will be much easier to deal with.

Clearly Outline the Issue

You can only speak on the main issue is after you have let the other person speak. Remember to use the sandwich method of positive, negative, and then positive. It is the most effective way to bring up a problem you are having with someone.

Most people eat a sandwich because of what is inside, but without the two slices of bread the sandwich wouldn't taste as good. This is the same with confrontations. The main issue is the negative thing you have to bring up to them, but you must start off on a positive note and finish on a positive note for it to go down well with the person. When it is your turn to speak make sure to first describe your perceptions.

Stay away from conclusions or statements about the person's motives. Say what you think you see and describe the problem you think it's causing. Next, tell how it makes you feel and be honest about this. And finally explain why this is important because many times people don't realize the importance of their actions.

Engage in this process with as limited negative emotion as possible. Be upbeat and positive and the person will feel like they just had a conversation with you, which is in reality what it should be.

Encourage a Response

Never confront others without letting them respond. If you care about people, you will want to listen. Sometimes simply having the discussion helps you to realize that your perceptions were wrong. I know that's happened to me. It's very humbling when I realize I am the problem.

Other times you discover that you need to take extenuating circumstances into account. Encouraging a response helps you better understand the problem. It also gives the other person a chance to process the issue emotionally.

Most of the time when you confront people they will have an emotional reaction. They may be shocked or get angry or feel guilty. They may want to share those feelings with you or they may not. But no matter what you should encourage them to give you a genuine response because if they don't have their say they won't be able to move toward a resolution.

Agree to an Action Plan

Most people hate confrontation, but they love resolution. And the only way to achieve resolution is to take positive action. By developing and agreeing to an action plan you place the focus on the future and not on the problems of the past.

This is very important. If the person wants to change he will gravitate toward the possibility of making things better. If your confrontation is formal, such as in a work setting, then put the action plan in writing. Then you can always go back to that document if resolution doesn't go as planned.

Remember that successful confrontation usually changes both people involved, not just one. A good measure of success of resolving conflict is the ongoing growth of the relationship.

Any time you truly do resolve conflict in a relationship, it doesn't hurt the relationship; it strengthens it. Just focus on the other person and have a genuine interest in them improving as a person and as an employee and you will start embracing conflict as a means to bettering your organization.

Chukwuma Asala is an international student from Nigeria who is studying to earn an MBA from the State University of New York in Albany. He has analyzed more than 20 industry case studies throughout his education thus far, and hopes to bring some of his business knowledge to Gaebler.com.

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