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Keeping Conflict to a Minimum

By Patti Fralix
Posted: July 19, 2007, from the August 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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      Commit to conflict management. Discuss conflict on a general level so that team members understand that change and opportunity always involve conflict. Make sure people understand that managing it effectively is a company expectation. Treat team members as equals and expect them to solve their own problems. When an employee complains to a manager about another team member, the manager’s first question should be, “Have you discussed your concern with them?” Supervisors should function as coaches and be resources for assisting employees in dealing with their own conflicts.

      Implement a communication model for handling conflicts. Many problems can be diffused by effective communication. Follow these three steps in order to handle disagreements effectively.

1. Focus on the desired outcome of the interaction. This will usually include the hope that the relationship be maintained, and, with any luck, improved.
2. Ask more questions and make fewer statements. This will help foster understanding.
3. Use the dominant communication style of the other person—direct or indirect—even if it is not your usual style.

      The model is simple, but it is not effortless. It is much easier to just start talking without thinking about the desired outcome. However, focusing first on understanding the other person’s position often makes yours heard and accepted more openly.

Effective management
      Given increased change, ambiguity and stress, more conflict should be expected, both covert and overt. Understanding different personality styles, communicating effectively with a variety of people and utilizing the three-step communication model are good strategies for managing differences. When understood and controlled effectively, results and relationships will improve.