Direct Communication Resolves Workplace Conflicts, The MDC Group

Direct Communication Resolves Workplace Conflicts.

6 Things to Know about Using Direct Communication to Help Resolve Workplace Conflicts

Even in companies with healthy and thriving cultures, disagreements and conflicts still happen in the workplace. What matters more than whether or not disagreements arise is how a team deals with them — conflicts should always be resolved with direct communication, based on caring and mutual respect. Just like the world outside the office, many people hate confrontation and feel more comfortable discussing issues with people that are not directly involved in the conflict or disagreement. However “triangulation,” or talking about a problem to a third party rather than confronting a person directly, can cause a host of problems in a workplace environment. The fastest and most effective way to resolve disputes is being “Care-frontational.” Care-frontation means discussing a problem sensitively and directly with anyone involved without judgment or anger.

  1. Triangulation – What is it and How Does it Damage Your Culture?

People like to gossip. Sometimes it’s lighthearted and harmless, but it can also be damaging to individuals or to your carefully-built workplace culture. If a team member is using gossip primarily to avoid confrontation, you have a problem: triangulation. Triangulation, or bringing an uninvolved person into a conflict, can harm the reputation of those involved and create a toxic and uncomfortable work environment for everyone.

The term triangulation comes from the field of psychology. However, anyone may use triangulation to avoid confrontation, vent their frustration, and/or gain support for their opinions. This unhealthy and unhelpful approach to problem-solving wastes time and energy and may even amplify a problem as it gets passed from one person to another. Ultimately, when someone avoids confrontation by talking to a third person, it can promote an atmosphere of distrust and prevent a problem from being resolved.

It’s important to remember, though, that not every instance of talking to a third party is triangulation—and it isn’t always problematic. Speaking to a supervisor, for example, or someone else that has the ability moderate or to resolve the issue through an official capacity can be a healthy way to begin addressing a situation.

  1. To Vent is Human — and Sometimes Healthy

Another example of helpful expressions to a third party can include venting. If a wronged party (or a party that perceives themselves as wronged) needs to vent frustrations to calm down and get perspective on a problem, talking to someone outside the situation can help. The key to healthy venting is focusing on the issue and one’s feelings more than the team member with whom the disagreement has occurred.

Team members who feel wronged can be encouraged to talk about their frustrations and about how best to solve the problem. They might need to describe what the other person did that was upsetting, but concentrating on one’s own emotions is psychologically healthier. Having a team member share to help organize and bring context to their feelings can help put them in a better frame of mind to address the problem rationally.

  1. Acting as a Third-Party Participant: Being a Good Listener

At some point or another, nearly everyone has found themselves in a position where a coworker is talking —probably poorly — about another member of the team. What you do as a part of that triangle matters. Providing a sounding board is helpful, but keep the shared information to yourself and, like mentioned above, encourage the speaker to focus on their own feelings. Refuse to start a gossip chain or join forces against the subject of the venting.

The best advice to give to someone feeling frustrated is to suggest that they speak directly to the other teammate calmly and compassionately — once they’ve cooled down — in order to resolve the conflict.

  1. Teaching Care-frontation Skills

Care-frontation differs from con-frontation in that care is intentionally incorporated into every step of the resolution process. Care-frontation is an approach to problem-solving that includes listening to concerns thoughtfully and without defense and delivering constructive, caring feedback to team members or groups. The care-frontation method clearly defines a conflict or difficulty and looks for solutions for those concerned within a judgment-free setting. All care-frontation conversations should start with the idea that everyone cares about and respects the other team members involved.

  1. Defining and Problem & Getting to the Root

To solve a problem, you must first clearly define it. Whether the problem is the behavior of an individual or conflicting opinions, knowing what the difficulty is can be half the battle. The problem should be specific and can be about a clash of ideas or opinions or a clash between behaviors and company policies or goals. The problem should not express judgments about someone’s character or abilities.

Once the problem has been defined, the moderator and team lead can look for the causes. If, for example, a team member is chronically late or doesn’t meet deadlines, discussing why that happens should be step one. Be sure to ask for an explanation in a caring way that encourages honesty. Letting individuals know you want to help them will yield more candid and accurate responses than accusations and judgment. Understanding the problem and its grounds will allow everyone to work towards a resolution, and you will get to know your associate better by gaining insight into their life, skills, and concerns. Whether an adjustment to work hours or some extra training is the answer, an appropriate solution can be reached through care-frontation.

  1. Attacking the Problem, Not the Person

When disagreements arise about how a task should be accomplished, each person should calmly and clearly present their reasons for their opinions. Parties to the disagreement may discover a misunderstanding about project goals or find that the alternative approach is equal or better. In any case, it is important everyone is heard and feels that their perspective has been honored. Even if the team members still disagree, they will feel better about having followed the prescribed procedures.

Most people can agree to disagree in the interest of moving a project forward as long as they have been permitted to express their opinion. Showing someone you care about them and respect their views promotes a positive, cooperative work atmosphere. People feel encouraged to think outside the box and suggest creative solutions within a nonjudgmental environment. When productive conflict resolution is set as the standard, team members will also feel more comfortable bringing up and handling conflicts and problems in a healthy way in the future.

Handling a problem directly with a team member is the cleanest and healthiest approach, and using Care-frontation rather than confrontation makes resolving conflict less disruptive. When someone needs to talk a problem over with a third party, it should be done only to calm down and clarify a situation before approaching the person involved. By teaching all members of a team to be good listeners to those who need to vent and promoting a care-centered problem-solving standard, companies can maintain progress and a foster a healthy workplace atmosphere.

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