At some point in your professional career, you will have to deal with conflict. Have you heard the saying “There are no difficult conversations, just uncomfortable ones?” No matter if you chalk them up as difficult or uncomfortable, most of us try to avoid conflict, especially with coworkers you have to face, day in and day out. One of the most common conflict-related conversations we witness clients try to avoid is giving (or receiving) constructive feedback. Maybe you have to talk to an employee about performance, or even handle a situation related to an employee’s mental health. These can be terrifying if you’ve never dealt with that particular scenario or you have no one to use as a trusted soundboard. With the right tools and mindset, navigating conflicts can become something you don't dread, but learn to navigate with confidence. Here are some tips!
Honesty and empathy are two of the most important things to remember as a leader. Take a deep breath before having that conversation. Practice humble inquiry when engaging or responding to your coworker, and empathy when listening. Be honest about what can be done in the next steps. Facts are easy to remember - stick to them and know when the other person has had enough. Pick up on social cues to ensure you don’t “beat a dead horse.”
Practice regular feedback
Two-way feedback is a good practice for you and your employees to become more comfortable hearing and giving constructive feedback. This is also always a chance for you to build trust and connections with your employees. Conflict is much easier when you have trust. And honest feedback becomes easier to give and receive over time with some regularity.
Things to remember:
1. Watch your tone and your delivery. The point of constructive feedback is for others to collaborate, learn and grow. It is not an attack.
2. Explain your why - people are way more comfortable when they know the ‘why’.
3. Give room for the other party to listen, digest and respond.
4. Don’t ask for feedback if you’re not willing to receive it.
5. If you find that you put off regular one-on-one conversations where 2-way feedback can happen, check out WorkTok, a mobile feedback app for teams on the go.
When you have issues creating conflict - nip it in the bud!
If an issue was brought to your attention, it is best to try and handle it as soon as you can. If you try to avoid having a conversation or handling the situation it may begin to grow bigger than it needs to be. Get in the habit of regularly checking in with your folks and handling situations as they arise. Remember “SBI” which stands for Situation, Behavior, Impact. This is a great model for delivering timely feedback. “The situation was we were entertaining a new client in the office and it was a fairly formal setup. You were snapping your gum the entire time and on your phone. The client was visibly annoyed and now I’m worried we’ve jeopardized getting this new business because we looked immature and unprofessional.” Playing the situation back like a video to the person will help them identify a specific example they can use to adjust their behavior in the future. Do not let small issues fester, they breed passive-aggressive behavior! And we all know that is the cancer of the workplace. I sense another article coming!
At the end of the day, we all just want to do a good job and get through the day with a little bit of joy! Avoiding conflict does not bring joy at work. Try not to avoid these conversations. Have a good mindset going into it. These difficult conversations push us out of our comfort zone and help people and businesses grow. Both parties should keep an open mind and work to collaborate. Once you come to a solution, make a plan and act on it.
If you need additional help or training with respect to navigating workplace conversations and situations feel free to reach out to the Leath HR Group team!
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