By Gary R. Gasaway (USA)
With any implementation, there is change. Many of the challenges with change brings about conflict. There are many issues concerning conflict with employees, none more than change. Unfortunately, many supervisors, managers, and especially executives are not equipped to handle conflict as it relates to change in the workplace. They need help! Therefore, there is an emergence of what I refer to as Conflict Coaches.
Conflict can cause many issues with employees. Although there are effective ways for employees to bounce back from these types of setbacks. Even with conflict from ineffective management, some employees seem to recover from negative events more easily than others. The key is resilience. With an effective Conflict Coach, the employees can accept the major changes. An effective Conflict Coach can influence employees to appreciate that change is a part of life and to go with it instead of fighting it. If a good vision is communicated; then looking ahead can be beneficial. In other words, the current situation might be difficult, but it won’t last forever. The Conflict Coach can influence employees to see beyond the change to the strong possibility of happier times.
Even with an effective Conflict Coach in place, these resilient employees will still experience some setbacks in the change process, but they will have the ability to accept these setbacks and move on. The key is their attitude. A Conflict Coach can help shape these positive attitudes early on in the change process.
One of the most important factors that a Conflict Coach can do is encourage connecting with others. Forging strong relationships can help in tough times. With a ‘people first’ concept in place, the Conflict Coach can help employees by recognising their own self-worth. Understanding and knowing that they have the ability to bounce back is the confidence they need. No matter how bad they may feel today, they will feel better if they just believe in themselves.
To add to the conflict, the inexperience or ineffectiveness of the manager can leave the employee teams lost, with no direction or guidance. Without proper guidance from management, conflict can be a norm on the teams of employees that are going through change. To address this issue of team conflict; we really need to look at conflicts as an opportunity to transform and move from assuming negative outcomes to expecting positive ones. Thus, creating possibilities for learning, growing, and improving relationships on the team. The key here is that the team takes their work very seriously and wants to improve the teams’ operations during and after any implementation.
On the other hand, most members want to participate in debates regarding the issues, but not all members feel listened to. Therefore, empathic listening requires focus on the awareness of not just merely on the words being used, but on what the Conflict Coach may be thinking or feeling without words.
The point is to keep awareness that when team members bicker, everyone suffers. Minor disputes over process or tactics can cause major distractions in the workplace. Work gets interrupted and an unpleasant tension hangs in the air. There are advantages for the Conflict Coach in using curiosity in asking open-ended questions, and active, empathic and responsive listening as probes to initiate in getting beneath the surface of the disputes. The key is can they work the conflict out themselves? It really depends on the relationships of team members. In other words, when team members hide behind masks or sends distorted, double messages to others, it can damage relationships. There is a need to be openness with each other. Workplace relationships often mirror family relationships: people argue and disagree, sometimes heatedly, but they usually figure it out themselves with the relationship intact. This may be the case at work too. The Conflict Coach has the ability to influence team members to work it out themselves—and encourage them to do so building stronger relationships than before.
If the behaviour is difficult, it may be a problem. At times, it’s best for the Conflict Coach to hold on to a sense of humour, irony, and play. Most conflicts are not as important as they may seem. Let them work it out for themselves is to remain neutral. Attempt to learn the facts surrounding the disagreement. Speak with the employees on both sides of the disagreement and ask them to think about the situation and how ‘they’ can resolve it.
The key for the Conflict Coach is understanding the team as it relates to separating the positions from interests. In change efforts there will be conflict in regards to different positions of these employees from their interests. Positions are what you want, while interests are indicators of why you want it (needs, desires, and feelings) or think the way you do about it. The role as a Conflict Coach includes responsibility for maintaining a positive environment in which teamwork can thrive. Throughout the resolution process, ensure other team members are seeking the input of others. Then again, decide to whether or not to intervene, and make a decision that is always focused on the greater good of the team. In separating the positions from interests, this is possible even through the most difficult implementations.
In summary, it is my own experience that conflict can be healthy at its best. Conflict fosters creative thinking and opportunities to improve. Healthy conflict is evident by the ability to disagree on one issue while working collaboratively with others. Sometimes it’s best to convince team members they sometimes may have to admit they’re wrong. Help them save face by convincing them that changing a position shows strength and not weakness.
It’s best to create self-managed teams that can create guidelines for positive and productive conflict during a change. Self-managed teams work best with decision-making authority for their team. In addition; with the well-balanced contributions from all members, it creates a synergy within the team. Another positive or as functional conflict; it can force members to articulate team views and positions (other than JUST individual input) which usually results in a greater clarification and understanding. Through an experienced Conflict Coach, self-managed teams would be very effective. With the assistance of a Conflict Coach, managers can be more effective in communication to their work teams and deal much more efficiently and effectively with any work implementation.
About Gary R. Gasaway
Certified Professional Life Coach, Coach Training Alliance (CTA), accredited with the International Coach Federation (ICF)
As a retired manager from Southern California Edison, Gary used his natural talent for coaching and became a “corporate coach.” During his over 31 years with the company, he designed and developed several coaching courses and workshops that he facilitated to hundreds of supervisors and managers throughout the company. Gary also authored weekly coaching articles: The Coach’s Notes that were distributed throughout the company. He has published his first book: THE COACH’S CHRONICLES: A JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE’S TRIALS AND TRIUMPHS.