4 Ways to Model Workplace Conflict Resolution at the Leadership Level
A healthy work culture starts with conflict resolution values at the leadership level.
When management values solution-focused practices, employees feel heard, secure, and motivated to do their best work. Plus, your entire team can learn to communicate and collaborate by your example — which results in productive, efficient workflow.
Management styles vary across industries, corporate structure, and personal value systems, but anyone can incorporate these 4 techniques into their day-to-day leadership to create an open, inviting workplace environment.
Model Constructive Communication
Let employees know you’re available with an established, open-door communication policy. That way, internal conflicts can be resolved before they grow into a larger issue. Start with the right tone:
Set office hours or appointment time so your team knows they can talk to you within the same time frame on a weekly basis. A set time also demonstrates that you truly value their input, which helps them to clearly see their role in your business.
Make sure other policy verbiage reflects your commitment to conflict resolution. This includes official employee handbooks but also, and more importantly, your day-to-day communication over email and in meetings. Consider carefully which topics may need space for more fluid dialogue versus a presentation plus question/answer approach.
Encourage other roles and levels of management (not just HR!) to echo your open-door policy for a constructive conflict culture throughout. Just because you say it (and model it) doesn’t mean it will become engrained in employees’ day-to-day work overnight. Ensure you are underscoring the importance of constructive communication in your organization — across all levels and departments.
Reinforce an open-door policy with regular one-on-one check-ins to make sure employees and management are on the same page. Your team members’ input can help you address issues you may not have been made aware of otherwise.
Conduct anonymous surveys to allow employees to express themselves without feeling like they’ve been put on the spot. These can be created easily online and are fully customizable to allow as much room for constructive comments as you want.
Schedule consistent review meetings. Quarterly reviews allow a chance for one-on-one feedback, so you can understand how your professional relationship works best at every level.
From there, you can use this feedback to create and maintain behaviors and practices. Employees will be able to see their influence on the leadership level — helping them to feel more in control of and engaged in their work environment.
A word of caution: If all you’re hearing is positive feedback, it may be worth exploring. Many “friendly” workplaces fall into a pattern of conflict avoidance for fear of offending those they are close to. If you’re worried people aren’t sharing the negative because they’d prefer to avoid it — it’s time to hit reset on how your company perceives conflict.
On the other hand, if you’re not hearing anything at all (i.e. people simply aren’t sharing), consider why people might not feel comfortable speaking up (and keep reading).
Be What You Are: Human
You can’t expect your team members to be open and honest with you if you’re not doing the same for them. Make sure they know you care about their struggles and setbacks at work simply by admitting that conflict exists in your business — and that’s a good thing!
Talk openly about the struggles inherent to the workplace when addressing company change, and consider setting weekly or monthly company-wide talks to do so.
Don’t just schedule company social events for your employees — actively participate in them yourself and encourage the rest of your leadership team to do the same. Consider casual, social events (even if virtual) in particular, so your team can see your personality in another light.
Connect. Simply make a point to connect with your team members. Go beyond saying good morning and ask polite (yet non-work-related) questions. That way, you’re demonstrating that you care about getting to know what’s important to them, and they can control how much they share. This allows you both to fully consider the whole person, rather than limiting yourselves to the roles you fill.
…And, if you really want to to hold yourself and your organization accountable: Consult a Professional
ONE EIGHTY offers in-house conflict management workshops to ensure long-term solutions for individuals, teams, and leadership. Consulting a professional demonstrates that you’re serious about your team’s professional health — and they should be, too.
Outside support also keeps you accountable, so you’re actively implementing and evolving these practices and not just hoping everyone eventually catches on.
When a leader or manager is willing to call in a professional, it shows they don’t just assume they know best — so employees feel more comfortable sharing their ideas, too.
When conflict does inevitably arise in the future, you’ll have the tools to work through it constructively.