When facing a conflict: advice from a coach

A team member rushes into your office, breathless and emotional. Words pour in. You try to respond. Another avalanche follows. You have 5 seconds to choose your conflict management strategy.

Here are few tips a coach shared with me, to invest in healthy relationships at work:

  • Focus on your breath. Breathe in. Breathe out.
  • Adopt a neutral posture. Watch your body language.
  • Postpone the discussion if you cannot manage the situation.
  • If you can manage the situation, then listen.
  • Say “I know”, if you know. Or “it is possible”, if you do not know.
  • Use the broke record technique – keep going with “I know”/”It’s possible” until the spirits calm down.
  • Adapt a neutral attitude: stick to facts, leave emotions out, focus on “Let’s find a solution”.
  • Use re-phrasing “Did I get it right that X and Y….?”
  • If the atmosphere is still hot, express feelings and allow the other person to do the same. Explain with calm the consequences on the person(s) concerned and the project: “Your late delivery of the product, made the test team anxious about them meeting the deadline set by the Board. They want to solve this, together with you”.
  • Do not accept victimisation and/or self-victimisation. Keep the dialogue at adult levels. Do not get into the game of people who live from conflict.
  • Find or agree to find a solution: (a) win-win, if possible; (b) compromise, as responsible adults; (c) agree to differ and come back latter; or (d) ask for help (management, Board, Human Resources, experts).
  • End on a positive note and make sure there are no hard feelings and unspoken messages as much as possible.

 

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