Conflict is a characteristic of human existence. At one stage in life we all have experienced some kind of conflict. A colleague at school, work, gym, college etc said or did something that made us react differently than we would normally do.

In most cases, conflict arises due to differences in opinions, expressions, needs and interests among peers. Words said by someone or actions done by someone can be interpreted differently by another person resulting in conflict. If conflict is not monitored and managed well at work, it affects the overall performance of the individuals involved and if care is not taken, other staff not initially involved.

As a leader:

• Identify the root cause of the conflict: As human beings, many at times we make the mistake of instantly making decisions without having all the information we need to make sound decisions. It is very important to first gather all the facts, and analyse them properly so as to avoid making any biased decisions.

• Act quickly: Do not play a wait and see game. Standing by the sidelines and convincing yourself that the involved parties will eventually reach an agreement will not get you anywhere. Remember, It only takes a single matchstick to start a big fire but the resources required to put out that fire outweigh those of obtaining the matchstick.

• Stay put: Where there is conflict, different emotions are involved. In most cases, they are highly intense emotions. As a leader have all the facts on the plate. Don’t panic and also, don’t be over-emotionally involved. This will help you avoid taking sides.

• Promote a culture of respect: Very often, if you ask people who have been involved in conflict, you are most likely to hear these words…” Person A didn’t show me enough respect by saying this and that or by doing this and that…”. As a leader you have to ensure that a culture of respect is promoted where people value and respect other peoples’ opinions, considerations and there is mutual way of solving problems. The tone should start from the top and cascade down to the lower levels of the organization.

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