Workplace conflict will inevitably arise in any organization. But when it does, your managers must be trained to quickly and efficiently resolve issues, have difficult conversations, and help fix damaged working relationships. After all, how we respond to conflict often determines whether the outcome is positive or negative.
In short, you want your team to understand how to turn issues into opportunities for innovation and collaboration – or, at the very least, to keep a workplace conflict from becoming destructive. So what is the best way to teach them those skills? First, invest in conflict resolution training for managers.
Why is Conflict Resolution Training Program Important For Managers?
In many ways, being a manager is about managing relationships–your relationships with your direct reports, your relationships with your manager, and your relationships with peers and stakeholders you count on to get the job done. As an individual contributor, if you get lucky with a boss you get along with, you may not need to use many conflict management skills. But as you rise through the ranks, your ability to work effectively with others (even the challenging ones) will set you apart. Maintaining relationships without dealing with conflict at some point is impossible, so managers should master this skill.
Confidence in managing and resolving conflicts pays off for managers. Not only will your team spend less time working on challenging interactions, but a culture of respectful conflict management also increases engagement and commitment. When team members know conflicts won’t get swept under the rug, everyone gets held equally accountable, and their manager approaches conflicts somewhat, trust builds. And those working in an environment of trust report that they are more committed to team goals and success.
Why L+D Should Prioritize Conflict Resolution Training Program
On a company-wide basis, organizations weak in conflict resolution face real day-to-day challenges. A 2008 study found that workers lose almost 3 hours per week on average dealing with the impacts of conflicts. We lose that time by avoiding the issue or the person associated with the conflict, complaining about the conflict, and finding workarounds. Multiplied across the organization, companies capable of effectively dealing with conflict see a substantial impact on the bottom line.
In addition to saving time, organizations with healthy approaches to conflict report happier, more engaged colleagues. This leads to lower attrition rates of 13.9% on average compared to 48.8% for companies struggling with conflict. However, the time and energy needed to replace workers fleeing conflict-ridden teams may be for naught if the health and culture of the team remain the same.
Finally, managing conflict is also about limiting legal risk. Well-managed conflicts are far less likely to wind up in court. Those court cases can cost more than just legal fees, too. The 61,331 cases U.S. workplace discrimination cases under federal jurisdiction led to more than $34 million in damages. And that doesn’t include the significant number of issues and judgments in state and local courts.
Why Conflict Management Skills are Vital for Global Scalability
While conflict can stem from just about anywhere, at the heart of any disagreement is a disconnect in perspective. Perspective can be shaped by country, region, gender, religion, ethnicity and physical ability, and a lifetime of lived experiences. As organizations expand to other regions and geographies, these baked-in differences multiply, creating a fertile ground for conflict absent strong conflict management skills. Working together harmoniously while respecting differences is vital to any global organization’s ability to scale effectively.
Hone’s 3-Step Conflict Resolution Process
At Hone, we’ve created a science-backed method to help people leaders resolve conflicts and issues on their teams. Our conflict resolution training for managers model has three steps:
- Diagnose the conflict
- Choose a conflict style
- Recap, request, and re-evaluate
Here’s a detailed look at what each step entails and how to create conflict resolution training for managers that will train them to resolve workplace issues with ease:
1. Diagnose The Conflict
To resolve a workplace issue, you must first understand its root cause. Coaching skills like active listening and asking powerful questions can help managers quickly diagnose a conflict and gather the necessary information to resolve it.
The first step in your conflict resolution training for managers should be teaching them to ask the right questions. Here are a few examples questions your managers should ask their direct reports to get to diagnose the conflict:
- What happened?
- What’s going on?
- How are you feeling?
- What are your needs of yours not being met?
- What can I do for you?
- What would you like to happen?
The beauty of asking these questions is that answering them may be enough to resolve the conflict independently. Sometimes, just getting their feelings off their chest will be enough for employees to feel better. Often, talking things out loud can help them realize how to resolve the conflict themselves.
But these types of conversations won’t always resolve an employee’s issues. That’s when it’s crucial that your managers actively listen to their employee’s description of the incident, their needs, and what type of support they want from their manager.
2. Choose a Conflict Style
The Dual Concern Model is a powerful model developed by organizational psychologists, including Dean Pruitt and Jeffrey Rubin, that bases conflict resolution on the dimensions of assertiveness and empathy. Assertiveness is the level at which you are concerned for yourself, while empathy is your concern for others. According to this model, there are five ways to address conflict: competition, collaboration, compromise, avoidance, and accommodation.
Here is a breakdown of the Dual Concern Model’s five methods and how to incorporate each step into your conflict resolution training program for managers:
The Dual Concern Model: 5 Ways to Address Conflicts
“Would you be willing to work together to come to a solution that helps the both of us?”
When creating conflict resolution training program for managers, the first step of the Dual Concern model you’ll want to review is “collaborate.” This method combines high empathy and assertiveness to come to a solution. Collaboration can be an effective conflict solution when there’s enough time to consult with all key stakeholders and secure their buy-in.
“Would you be willing to meet in the middle?”
This method can be used when each party needs to view the outcome fairly. It typically leaves little time for negotiation or input and combines existing processes or behaviors that both parties have in place.
“Would you be willing to accept my solution?”
Competition can be a way to muscle through a conflict, especially when you need a swift resolution and believe your approach is the best.
“I accept your request.”
When something is less important to you and more critical to the other parties or has little hope of achieving your desired outcome, accommodation can quickly resolve an issue.
“Would you be willing to wait and see if the situation resolves itself?”
If a workplace conflict is small and likely to go away on its own, you can mutually choose to ignore it or address it later.
There is no right style for any given situation. It would be best to encourage your managers to be thoughtful and consider their options before making a choice.
3. Recap, Request, and Re-Evaluate
The last step in Hone’s conflict resolution training program for managers is when a manager must explicitly address the conflict. This step has three parts: recap, request, and re-evaluate.
To ensure your managers have been caught up in the situation, instruct them to repeat the key messages they’ve heard an employee share.
- Here’s what I understand happened/is happening: _________
- It sounds like you feel ________
- Because you need/value ________.
After sharing their understanding of the issue, teach managers to check in with the other person to ensure what they’ve stated is accurate. If they misunderstood the conflict at this stage, they would have to revisit the questions in Step 1 outlined at the beginning of this article.
The next stage is encouraging your managers to make an explicit request by phrasing their recommendation based on the chosen conflict style. So, for example…
Would you be willing to ________?
- Collaboration: “…work together to come to a solution that helps both of us?”
- Compromise: “…meet in the middle?”
- Compete: “…accept my solution?”
- Avoid: “…wait a little bit and see if the situation resolves itself?”
Finally, after your request, you can re-evaluate the conflict by asking three questions.
- Does that make sense to you?
- How do you feel about it?
- What are the next steps?
The crucial part of this last step is acknowledging and validating an employee’s experience. The conflict will likely continue if both parties aren’t aligned on these three questions. Instruct your managers to revisit their diagnosis or choose a new conflict style if they sense misalignment or pushback.
Conflict Management Training vs. Conflict Resolution Training Program
Most conflict training focuses on resolving the conflict so everyone can move forward. But also vital is recognizing the value of conflict management training. In contrast to conflict resolution, conflict management acknowledges the existence of some fundamental differences between parties. It centers on creating open-mindedness, listening to each other, and learning from others’ experiences.
Conflict management won’t be the right tool for getting the team to agree on quarterly goals, but it adds value in overcoming longer-standing conflicts tied to different perspectives. For example, there’s often a creative tension between sales and engineering. Engineering feels sales over-promises, and sales believe engineering is too worried about edge cases and precision. The company needs both perspectives to function effectively, yet this creative tension can make working together challenging,
Conflict management training helps both parties understand the other’s perspective and the lived experiences informing that perspective. When practical, conflicts will still exist, but parties can listen with respect and remain more open to compromise. They can see differences resulting from different perspectives, not evidence of inherent rightness or wrongness.
Conflict Training for Managers Made Easy
Conflict resolution training is a vital aspect of developing effective conflict resolution skills among managers. Providing conflict resolution training for managers enables them to effectively manage conflicts in a constructive manner. Conflict resolution training helps managers to develop skills like active listening, empathy, and effective communication that are necessary for managing conflicts among employees. By investing in conflict resolution training for managers, organizations can foster a positive and productive workplace culture and create a more collaborative and engaged workforce. Ultimately, conflict resolution training is a valuable investment that improves overall business outcomes by enabling managers to manage conflicts constructively, which leads to a more harmonious and efficient work environment.
Want to teach your team how to navigate challenging conversations and manage conflicts like a pro? Learn how Hone’s live online learning classes can help you scale your L&D initiatives with types like Lead Through Turbulent Times, Transform Conflict into Collaboration, Give Feedback That Lands, and more.