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Steps In Dealing With A One On One Conflict Situation

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The best thing for a supervisor is to enable his work group to resolve day to day conflicts themselves. Here is a 12-pointer guideline you can use to teach your employees how to resolve their conflicts better:

1. Know what you don't like about yourself, early on in your career. We often don't like in others what we don't want to see in ourselves.

  • Write down 5 traits that really bug you when see them in others.
  • Be aware that these traits are your "hot buttons".

2. Manage yourself. If you and/or the other person are getting heated up, then manage yourself to stay calm by:

  • Speaking to the person as if the other person is not heated up - this can be very effective!
  • Avoid use of the word "you" - this avoids blaming.
  • Nod your head to assure them you heard them.
  • Maintain eye contact with them.
  • Speak to the other person calmly, politely and rationally. Focus on the situation and facts, avoiding gossip and personal attacks.
  • Be careful not to express hostility in your posture, facial expression or tone. Be assertive without being aggressive.

3. Decide whether you want to confront the person who is bothering you. It is usually better to air grievances in the open than to let them fester.

4. Move the discussion to a private area, if possible.

5. Give the other person time to vent. Don't interrupt them or judge what they are saying.

6. Express interest in what the other person is saying. You can acknowledge her ideas without necessarily agreeing or submitting. Saying, "I understand that you feel this way. Here's how I feel...", acknowledges both positions.

7. Verify that you're accurately hearing each other. When they are done speaking:

  • Listen to the other person carefully: What is she trying to say? Be sure you understand her position.
  • Ask the other person to let you rephrase (uninterrupted) what you are hearing from them to ensure you are hearing them.
  • To understand them more, ask open-ended questions. Avoid "why" questions - those questions often make people feel defensive.

8. Repeat the above step, this time for them to verify that they are hearing you. When you present your position:

  • Use "I", not "you".
  • Talk in terms of the present as much as possible.
  • Mention your feelings.

9. Communicate clearly what you want, offering positive suggestions and recommendations. Be willing to be flexible.

10. Acknowledge where you disagree and where you agree.

11. Work the issue, not the person. When they are convinced that you understand them:

  • Ask, "What can we do fix the problem?" They will likely begin to complain again.
  • Then ask the same question. Focus on actions they can do, too.

12. If possible, identify at least one action that can be done by one or both of you:

  • Ask the other person if they will support the action... 
  • If they will not, then ask for a "cooling off period".

13. Thank the person for working with you.

14. If the situation remains a conflict, then:

  • Conclude if the other person's behaviour conflicts with policies and procedures in the workplace and if so, present the issue to your supervisor.
  • Consider whether to agree to disagree.
  • Consider seeking a third party to mediate.

As a supervisor or manager you need to deal with problematic personalities by trying to understand what motivates their behaviour, then tailoring your actions to work with that personality type. Once you grasp why people behave as they do, you will be able to interact with them more effectively.

For example, be firm with bullies at work ' don't allow them to pressure you into doing anything unwanted. Act with caution.

Around complainers, avoid acting too sympathetic if you feel their complaints are ill-founded; instead, ask what sorts of actions they plan to take to change the situation. Squarely ask them what they want.