Even from my seat high up I the stands, I could feel the tension and conflict between one of the circus performers and the rest of the team. Wherever he went, people would drop equipment or stumble over barriers. A flamethrower missed his target; the woman on the high wire almost slipped; even the tigers wouldn’t cooperate.
A circus must move quickly and smoothly, so everyone pitches in. At one point someone is holding the rope for the trapeze artist, and then they may be bringing out the dogs or doing a magic trick. This teamwork requires that people get along or productivity suffers.
Conflict in the workplace affects everyone, and when it’s allowed to fester and isn’t resolved, productivity suffers and customer service declines.
People can be taught to manage conflict before it affects job performance and to resolve the natural problems that develop when ideas and personalities differ.
Here are some steps to take the next time you want to resolve a conflict with another person.
- Show where you and he or she share the same basic premise and ultimate goal.
“We both want this project to be successful and have our ideas considered in discussions”.
- Take responsibility for what you say by using ‘I’ statements.
“I’ve noticed that people are starting to shut down and seem to be losing interest.”
“You’re losing the group and jeopardizing the project.”
The first statement gives your observation or opinion, the second gives your judgment or assumption based on what you observed.
- Describe the situation with tact and respect, without blame or
“Sometimes when I give an opinion or idea, it gets swept aside because so many people are talking at once”.
- Allow the other person to speak.
“ How do you see this situation?”
- Listen, listen, listen: with an open mind, don’t interrupt, and try to control your feelings of anger, resentment or embarrassment.
- Check out your assumptions and ask for more information if you don’t understand.
“Could you tell me more about that?”
- Commit to understanding or resolving the situation.
“I really want this project to be successful and I’m willing to do what it takes to solve the problems we’re having”.
- Ask for commitment from the other person.
“I know that you want the project to be successful, what do you think we should do to get us back on track?”
- Problem solve together
When people ignore conflict, it doesn’t go away. It results in missed deadlines, poor job performance, and a breakdown in communication. Effective conflict management can increase productivity, improve problem-solving and enhance job performance. Ultimately, this will save the company time and money and increase customer satisfaction.