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How to Improve Leading Conflict in the Workplace Now

Updated: Sep 2, 2022


There is an abundance of conflict in the world today. You don't even have to turn on the news to see it. More than likely, the global polarization touches your family or workplace somehow. Conflict is undoubtedly one of the most significant leadership challenges we all face. However, shifting our perspective on what effective conflict looks like illuminates its importance in bringing about a profound change in our work communities.

The truth is that bringing about deep, meaningful change relies on a willingness to handle the issues that hold us back from reaching our potential. Attempting to manage conflict usually leads to it managing you. Reactionary leaders tend to drive with their hands off the steering wheel when managing conflict. On the other hand, leading conflict places proactive leaders in the driver's seat with a firm grasp on their locus of control.


Conflict is normal. How leaders handle it determines whether it builds teams up or destroys them. When seeking a culture that leans on conflict to develop trust, setting that expectation is critical in the hiring process. Leading conflict begins with depersonalizing the situation. It's not about you or your mama. Dr. Paul Metler adds that leaders should "Cultivate patience and self-control. A lion roars; a lamb listens. There are times to roar, but entering into a conflict with a roar sets the wrong tone. If you have not listened and discerned the real issue, your roar will hinder clear communication."

By depersonalizing conflict, leaders create space to analyze problems and seek solutions. It takes some of the emotion out of painful past experiences and allows teams to move toward a win-win mindset rather than an "us versus them" approach. For conflict to be constructive, there must be healthy trust. Trust thrives in times of honesty and genuine care, not in cultures of attack that thrive on cutthroat behaviors. Start by listening. It will help you focus on solutions.


Perhaps the crux of difficult conversations is the attitude and mentality that you bring into it as a leader. We use a mantra at InitaitiveOne: remember to be Kind, Direct, and Respectful. Control what you can control. Bringing a healthy attitude helps deescalate the tension. It's not always easy, but a fruitful discussion is likely to occur by taming your roar and seeking to listen.

We cannot control how others respond, even when setting the table for healthy discussions. It's okay to let go of the outcomes when they are not in your hands. However, reminding yourself of this mantra, listening, and taking the time to address uncomfortable issues is likely to increase trust in the eyes of your team. Trust is built on these honest and healthy discussions. It will continue to grow over time and lead to growth.


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