Dealing with Conflict Scars | Part 2

Wounds heal and we can live with scars so what’s the problem now the conflict is sorted I hear you say?  Well just as scars tell a story of survival or perhaps our own reckless actions, the reality is that despite the visibility of a scar fading over time pain can reoccur. Just like the physical discomfort I am experiencing with my scar now and outlined in BLOG Part 1, the same applies to conflict.  After an issue, complaint or investigation; life goes on, but the incident has left its mark. Why is it, when we know the point is to move forwards, do these feelings re-emerge? The answer is because we are each an incredibly complex web of biology, response patterns and individual experiences. Our history and complexity allow us to achieve what we do in life, but it also means we respond to stimuli (sometimes unwittingly) and remembering past hurts can rehash emotions we thought were dealt with or simply locked away.  

This is why, in the workplace, those tasked in dealing with conflict need to be skilled in how to appropriately address the situation (and minimise the resultant scarring).  Think of the outcome being like a surgical scar.  Which one will aesthetically look better – the scar from a sutured incision performed by a plastic surgeon as opposed to a sutured incision by your friendly GP?  With training, information and experience, we can all do better ie aspire to be the plastic surgeon and I’m fairly confident the GP’s that like to ‘cut’ work on refining their suturing skills.

My top 8 recommendations for effective conflict management to produce the most conducive result are:

  1. Address issues as they occur

    • Yes, conflict is scary and can be difficult to deal with; educate yourself and get on with it as sooner is better than later as the longer an issue simmers the harder it can be to deal with and move forwards from
    • Not everyone is confident at managing conflict and not everyone will be excellent at it, but it is unfair to the people involved if you fail to act and provide direction on the expectations 

  2. Follow a process

    • A process will afford you consistency and a systematic approach to addressing issues which ensures everyone is afforded the same due process

  3. Centre yourself - remain calm and level-headed

    • Having your own emotions running on overdrive i.e. need to deal with a team issue, your own work is piling up, you’re unsure as to what exactly to do, etc., will not help you
    • Be aware of and mind your emotional responses and focus on how your behaviours and actions may be interpreted by others and the impact of this i.e. address accordingly

  4. Dedicate time to working through the issue

    • As stated in point 3, you have your regular tasks to complete but conflict resolution is imperative to get right the first time (less scarring remember?)
    • Give the situation the time it deserves to address it properly – follow the procedure if there is one or at least allow input from the main persons involved, the opportunity for response and advise of the outcome

  5. Educate

    • Clearly communicate workplace and role expectations so there is no misunderstanding of what is expected
    • Develop conflict management skills with your team leaders, supervisors, managers and ensure they are fully aware of your inhouse procedures and how to comply with them

  6. Follow up

    • Establish a support framework to keep things on track and address any twinges early on

  7. Delegate a ‘go to’ person

    • Have a nominated person that team leaders, supervisors, managers can go to for support and assistance in managing the behaviour and performance of their team members
    • It is important to have a go but educate yourself on the appropriate actions and ask for guidance as needed

  8. Plan ahead

    • Know the skills and personalities of your team, their strengths and weaknesses, and where potential conflict may occur
    • Knowledge is power and rostering, task allocation, project planning, etc will all benefit from understanding your team, structuring accordingly and setting the expectations so there is no misunderstanding of what is required.

Employ the eight steps above and you are on the path to effectively managing conflict in your team or workplace. At times it will be confronting, uncomfortable and disconcerting for you but not only are there a myriad of resources you can access for support, you also owe it to the team to do this well. If you feel you would like assistance or perhaps a third party to deal with the situation, you can always contact us at Focus HR.  With our skills and many years’ experience we focus on empowering others to achieve in their workplace and will be happy to provide guidance and assist you to do just that.