Resolve or revolve conflict: The choice is yours
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Resolve or revolve conflict: The choice is yours

Departments - From the Inside Out

Follow these 7 rules to create a more positive workplace.

October 22, 2014

The ability to respectfully resolve differences is key to leadership success. Unfortunately, far too many leaders bury their head in the sand, hoping problems will magically disappear. Worse yet, they have the same disagreement over and over again. Week after week, month after month, year after year.

Leaders with conflict resolution skills maximize employee performance. Leaders lacking these skills have unhappy and underperforming employees. If you bury your head in the sand or keep reengaging in the same argument, it’s never too late to do things differently.

Last month we addressed four of Dr. Arnold Lazarus’ Rules for Fighting Fairly:

1. Address specific behaviors, don’t just criticize.

2. Refrain from telling others what they are thinking, how they are going to react or what they know.

3. Avoid, “You always” and “You never.”

4. Avoid right/wrong, good/bad categories. Look for compromises and empower others to determine how to best accomplish tasks.

Let’s delve into his final three rules.

5. Use “I” instead of “You” messages. “You are lazy and incompetent. You never get your reports in on time,” (violates rules 1 and 3) is going to be received differently from, “It frustrates and concerns me that your report is late. I need for you to complete your work on time. Can I count on you?”


A. It _____ me
(insert impact)

B. When________
(insert problematic behavior)

C. I need_______________.
(insert desired behavior)

D. Can I count on you? Ask for a commitment. (McHenry)

A leadoff phrase you will use over and over is, “It concerns me.” Other common impact words include frustrates, frightens, angers and disappoints. As a leader, you are responsible for what happens on your watch. If someone isn’t pulling his or her weight, is treating others poorly or is actively causing problems, concern, frustration, disappointment and anger are appropriate responses.

In one sentence, state the problematic behavior (i.e. tardiness, incomplete/subpar work, raising their voice in anger, etc.)

Again, in one sentence let them know the desired behavior. Just as knowing where the dartboard is greatly improves accuracy, you set others up for success when you let them know exactly where to aim their efforts.

Lastly, ask them to commit to the desired behavior. Then stay silent. It’s their turn to talk. If they say yes, great. If they say no, there is still a problem that needs your attention. Bottom line, a personal commitment significantly increases the likelihood the desired behavior will actually happen.

6. Be direct and honest. Say what you mean, mean what you say. Sending clear messages increases trust, cuts confusion and frees others from wasting time trying to figure out what you mean and want. Mixed messages confuse, frustrate and decrease productivity. Clear messages promote desired results. As productivity goes up, so does profitability.

Additionally, while it isn’t always possible or advisable to tell employees everything, if you want peak performance, everything you tell them needs to be honest and accurate. While your employees might not like what they hear, trust enables them to more easily roll with the punches.

7. All parties count. It’s not okay to win at another’s expense. Take the time and creativity needed to negotiate win-win solutions between individuals and departments. Can you always create win-wins? Of course not. There will be times you’ll need to draw the line. Your employees will respect and follow you even when they disagree if you regularly create win-win solutions.

While you can’t control how someone else responds, you significantly increase the likelihood of getting desired results when you handle conflict directly and respectfully. When conflict rears its head, what are you going to do differently this month?


Sherene is “The 30 Minutes To Breakthrough Specialist” and empowers organizations and individuals to maximize their potential and bottom lines, enhance relationships, and avoid and overcome burnout.