Conflict Scars | Part 1

The weather has cooled suddenly in our home town and with the drop in temperature I have a scar that has started to hurt – intermittent sharp pains and a general feeling of tightness.  My scar is the donor site for a skin graft I needed roughly 20 months ago.  It is 10cm x 15cm and I recall being horrified at the sight of the bright purple/red rectangle of tender skin on my thigh when the dressing first came off.  Repeatedly I was advised by people in the medical profession that the colour would fade over time.  Quite frankly, I found this very hard to believe.

As HR professionals we do this too.  We advise people that outcomes can be lived with and situations can change.  Aha!  Just like living with my scar and overtime, yes, the vivid colour has faded to the palest of pinks.  So much so that perhaps if you were not aware of its existence, you may not even notice it…

Like a flesh wound, conflict hurts (or is at least uncomfortable).  It is uncomfortable because there is disparity between two or more people and their values, opinions, expectations, etc.  the discomfort level varies depending on the situation e.g. a disagreement that is never resolved, below the belt blows, a character attack, or maybe the issue was satisfactorily sorted but the process itself was a horrible experience.  All in all, like when I first saw my skin graft donor site, conflict is uncomfortable and albeit that you can survive the experience, the emotions linked to the experience will leave you with a scar no matter how much it fades over time. 

Tips for dealing with conflict to produce the smallest possible scar:

  1. Address issues as they occur - now is best
  2. Follow a process - provides for fair and consistent treatment
  3. Centre yourself - it's critical to remain calm and level-headed
  4. Dedicate time to working through the issue - issues need properly healing (no bandaid fixes)
  5. Educate yourself and those around you on the expectations and build your leadership skills
  6. Follow up - don't leave things unresolved
  7. Find a 'go to' person - does someone in your workplace hanlle all complaints?
  8. Have a plan - be aware of team nuances and plan for them

Ultimately, we need to learn to live with conflict as low-level conflict is beneficial in driving debate, conversations and brainstorming sessions; it is long-term, unresolved conflict that is damaging to people, morale and businesses and presents a scar that continues to niggle after the wound has supposedly healed.  

Keep an eye out for Part 2 of this BLOG with further details on how these eight conflict management/resolution tips can assist you in the workplace.