Written By: Kristina Colantonio
When you think about conflict, it is not uncommon for it to have a strong negative connotation. In reality; it’s not such a bad thing. There is such a thing as positive conflict. It can push us to be better, think outside the box and appreciate differences, which, in turn, can strengthen our company. What really becomes important is how you handle that conflict. You cannot and should not ignore when that happens, because then it becomes a much harder problem to solve. If you ignore conflict, you waste a lot of time, increase negative relationships, and create an environment that can become a drain on the organization.
When a conflict comes across our desk in Human Capital, chances are that it has already escalated. Our goal at this point is to provide tools and skills to our employees, and have them solve the conflict themselves.
The first step in conflict resolution is listening. Being an active listener to both sides of an argument is critical. Even if you disagree with someone, listening is a powerful tool and a respectful way to approach a disagreement. Hearing why someone feels the way they do is very important to being able to resolve an issue.
Take a break and step back from the issue. Take a moment to calm down, try to take the emotion out of it, see the issue from the other’s point of view.
Address the conflict. Do not let it fester.
Resolving the conflict may help with your growth and development.
Listening: People want to feel heard; they want to feel like they are adding value and their opinions matter, because they do. That does not mean all opinions will be the same, but by listening to the other person, you can understand where their point of view comes from. It is also important to listen even when you disagree. Your opinion matters, and so does theirs.
Take a break: If you find yourself in a situation where you have built up anger or aggression, step away! This is advice I would give you in your personal and professional life. Take a moment, go for a walk, get some air, and calm down. If you are willing to try to take the emotion out of the conversation it will put you in a better state of mind to resolve the conflict.
Address the conflict: If there is an issue, deal with it in a timely manner. As mentioned, it is OK if you need a break before you handle the situation. If you need to talk to someone about making sure you are handling the situation correctly, work with your direct manager or your Human Capital department. If you let it fester for too long, the conflict may become larger and the relationship tends to breakdown further.
Enhancing your development by working through the issue: Working through tough situations allows you to step out of your comfort zone and push yourself to have what can be difficult conversations. A lot of times, through conflict resolution, you can make stronger connections. If done effectively, you may even start to appreciate those differences.
Resolving conflicts can be difficult. From my experience, it’s easy to see that most conflicts in the workplace come from a strained relationship and lack of connection. Strong relationships also improve your internal organization. Recent studies have shown that strengthening relationships at work improves morale, increases engagement and leads to greater satisfaction at work.  Employees are more likely to be positive, have healthy conflict and be open to feedback when that relationship is strong.
It’s All About the Relationship
At Foundry, we understand that everything we do, our work internally and externally, is personal. That said, when things are personal, there tends to be a lot at stake when it comes to dealing with a conflict. Human Capital will work with the employees in order to implement best practices that create and foster positive relationships.
Your company should strive for:
Communication is Key. Be Aware of Your Tone.
10% of conflicts are due to difference in opinion. 90% are due to wrong tone of voice. Your tone of voice could impact how people respond to you. Tone is most important when delivering a message and is sometimes even more important than the message you are trying to convey. This is the main reason we ask employees to take a step back from a conflict, calm down and give themselves time to cool off.
Tone can also come across wrong in an email. This tends to happen when there is a lack of relationship to begin with. It’s always better to have an actual conversation, especially when resolving a conflict. It’s easier to control the message with your tone of voice than with an email. It’s simple, really, and may be a lesson your parents taught you when you were young: treat people how you want to be treated.
If you have a strong relationship, nine times out of 10, you will have constructive dialogue that will not turn into negative conflict. This is not only true in our internal community but also with the clients we serve every day. Our goal here at Foundry is to foster a culture and environment where conflicts can add value and employees can work together to reach better decisions based on input from others. So, go ahead, disagree, challenge each other, and listen to one another. That is how we will continue to grow individually and as a company.
There are times that we’ll find we don’t have to choose between this or that, and we can often enjoy a solid mixture of great modeling and great culture. We’re all knit together, and the best moments happen when we successfully navigate our differences to pursue the possibilities of amazing outcomes.