Conflicts in the workplace are nothing new. When handled appropriately, conflicts often produce some of the best work. But when communication exchanges become toxic and disruptive and lead to poor decision making – then it’s a real issue and needs to be addressed. To those leaders who appreciate the importance of understanding how to manage behavioral differences – good for you; your business is probably flourishing. For leadership that has no understanding and, in my experience, very often even promotes conflict in the belief that competitiveness is healthy and pushes individuals to perform more effectively – you’re missing a business building opportunity. Behavior differences not understood at best and left unmanaged at worst can inhibit performance, cause unnecessary conflict and will only deteriorate if left alone.
People before numbersI’ve worked in the corporate and government world for many years and it always bothers me as a consultant when a CEO cites issues such as, teams not aligned, communication problems, incessant complaining to supervisors, lack of business progress and so on. Business is all about people. Whether they are your customers or your staff. Most conflict within and involving people revolves around unfulfilled needs:
- Decision making – I want to make them. I want you to make them.
- Communication – I’m expressive and want to talk. Im reflective and don’t want to talk.
- Structure – I like order. I’m a free spirit.
- Trust – Approach me, I’m an open book. I’m suspicious of your motivation.
- Opportunities – Let’s go for it. I play it safe.
Know thyselfMost CEOs are frustrated with unmanaged behavioral issues and tend to push those off to HR to deal with or call in a consultant, like me, to make the issues go away. In reality, the starting point for a CEO should not be flicking issues off to HR, but to invest in getting to know their own behavior. That is always my starting point. It never ceases to amaze me how impressed C-suite members are when they invest 10 minutes to understand their own inherent behavior. Suddenly they are sharing insights with each other – they have significant a-ha moments – they get why colleagues behave or react the way they do. More importantly, there is a genuine willingness to get below the surface in terms of how best to work together, and they make comments such as:
- Will you let me know when I say something that belittles you?
- Let’s have coffee together and figure out a better way to run our departments.
- I see now why all my detail frustrates you – I’ll cut to the bottom line.
- I understand you need time to reflect and think things through – I get it now.