Leaders solving conflict: Conflict can be a good thing, can’t it?

Leaders solving conflict

I for one, do not mind conflict, if it moves a situation forward. In some cases, I actually encourage it. I really believe that some internal combustion can deliver more sophisticated solutions if handled properly. In the previous blog on this subject we began our exploration of conflict in terms of resolution. In this blog I would like to look further into the mechanics, whether you like it or not! Only joking.

I spent the first twenty years of my working life in the military, where we did not have a lot of conflict. We just had orders. Orders that had to be carried out without question, irrespective of the situation. The stock phrase was JFDI; Just F*%#ing Do It, when an order was in any way questioned. Having left the military some 29 years ago I swiftly became aware that JFDI or words to that effect were not particularly productive when trying to solve conflict without the Naval Discipline Act to back it up.

Tackling conflict head on to create good outcomes, to me is not a problem, it is a way to reach a good result. There are positive and negative aspects of conflict in organisations. Conflict can be positive when it: helps to open up discussion of an issue, results in problems being solved, increases the level of individual involvement and interest in an issue and improves communication between people. Conflict can be negative when it diverts people from dealing with the really important issues, creates feelings of dissatisfaction among the people involved and leads to individuals and groups becoming insular and uncooperative.

Most managers will have developed a number of approaches to conflict situations, based on their own experiences. The effective manager is one who is able to draw from a wide range of approaches, and is able to apply them, to different situations, in a way, that promotes better outcomes.

Possible approaches to preventing such conflicts include: recognising and accepting differences between individuals and groups in terms of values, perceptions, expectations and needs, being honest with oneself and with others, allocating sufficient time and energy on a regular basis to really get to know the people you work with, so that you understand their values, beliefs etc, not automatically assuming that you are right and they are wrong, not feeling defensive if others disagree with your ideas, listening attentively to what people are really saying.

Always prepare well for conflict. Perhaps you might consider the following during your preparation:

  • What precisely do you want the outcome of the conflict to be, for yourself and your colleagues?
  • Is this best for the organisation?
  • Why is this issue important to my colleague(s)?
  • Why is this issue important to me?
  • What options do my colleagues have, and what options do I have?
  • What sort of a person(s), am I in conflict with?
  • What position are they likely to take?
  • What conflict style are they likely to adopt?
  • How would I respond best, if I were in their position?

Conflict Solving Process

The conflict solving process best starts by verbalising, what really is upsetting each party:


            ‘I have a problem with you not phoning me, when you will be late’

E         Express

            ‘I feel upset because you show a lack of consideration’

S         Specify

            ‘I would like you to ring, when you know you will be late’


           ‘If you do this, I be much happier; if you don’t, I will be upset’

Listen and ask questions

Acknowledge what has been said and check for understanding, show empathy.

Respond to concerns

 ‘I had no idea that is how you felt.’

Agree what the problem is

  • Remember that communication is the response you receive, not what was said.
  • Discuss what to do about the problem
  • Narrow extreme positions
  • Be clear what both sides need and agree a solution and keep to it
  • Make sure the problem is solved and shared, the ‘I’ becomes ‘we’. 

If all above fails, then please feel free to leave a suitable voicemail the next time the phone is not picked up, ending in JFDI!



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