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5 Steps to Address Conflict Effectively

Years ago, I had a “heated debate” with a colleague on December 23! 
She was very rude to me during this conversation.

I was too nervous to address the issues with her and tell her how I felt. 
So, I ignored the situation.

business man in conversation addressing conflict with the caption "It's important to address conflict in a strategic and timely way"

The next day, I got on an airplane for a two-week vacation to Mexico.
Instead of enjoying my trip and unwinding, I worried about this conflict the whole time. 
It literally ruined my vacation.

So many leaders think that if they avoid addressing conflict, it will just go away. 

However, the opposite is true. The conflict only escalates.

When I came back to the office in January, I was still too nervous to address the issues and I literally avoided this person in the hallways.  

We were never on good terms again after this conflict.

I have often reflected on this situation.
My behaviour was wrong in so many ways. 

While I am not proud of my behaviour, I did learn a lot about the necessity of addressing conflict in a strategic and timely way.

Are you avoiding conflict right now? If so, please dig deep, be courageous, and address the issue pronto! 

To help you move forward successfully, here are some important steps that you can follow. 

5 key steps to address conflict properly:

1. Identify the root cause of the issue. 

There is always a reason why conflict exists. If you can’t identify the root cause, you will never be able to resolve the issue. Some common causes for conflict are; lack of alignment around roles and responsibilities, work-style clashes, poor communication, and poor change management.

2. Establish a common goal for both people.

When people are working toward the same goal, they are more likely to put in the effort to resolve the issue. This step requires both parties to express what their needs are moving forward.

3. Determine barriers to the common goal.

This step is often missed and is critically important. I like to make a list of each barrier and then together brainstorm ways to overcome the barriers.

4. Agree on the best way to move forward.

While it is unlikely that the conflict will be resolved in just one conversation, at least end your initial chat with some next steps. Each person should leave the conversation with an action item that they can implement to move toward resolution.

5. Acknowledge each person’s contribution.

Being in conflict is not fun. Nobody enjoys it. Coming to these conversations always takes courage and vulnerability. It’s important to thank the other person for being willing to participate in the conversation with you.

Conflict is normal. However, if it arises, deal with it immediately before it escalates and poisons your relationships or the culture of your team.

When in conflict, be open to other people’s perspectives and create the time and space to reach resolution together.

Vanessa Judelman

Vanessa Judelman is an author, coach, and sought-after leadership expert. Over the past 20 years, she has created a proven formula to develop results-oriented leaders who feel empowered and confident in their job. Vanessa is the author of Mastering Leadership: What It Takes to Lead in Today’s Fast-Paced World. Order your copy here.

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