Do Your Leaders Have An SOP For Conflict?

Posted on May 1, 2024 by Nate Regier / 0 comments
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How do your leaders navigate conflict?

How often does conflict go off the rails in your organization?

Conflict is an inevitable and necessary part of any dynamic workplace. Unfortunately, in most work cultures, how leaders approach conflict is varied, inconsistent, and mostly fraught with drama.

Drama Resilience: How The Best Leaders Handle Conflict.

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for conflict gives leaders confidence and a repeatable process for navigating productively.

How Do Your Leaders Handle Conflict?

Some avoid conflict at all costs because they are anxious about the tension, worried about hurting relationships, or afraid of negative consequences.

Some immediately switch into fight mode, turning every conflict into a win-lose battle.

Some stuff it until they blow up.

Some scurry around seeking consensus to ease the tension.

Our research shows that over 70% of people surveyed say they would compromise to avoid conflict.

All of these responses to conflict are counterproductive. We call it drama.

How to keep drama from wreaking havoc on your work and career.

If you aren’t sure about your conflict style, there are plenty of assessments to help you out. But beware, knowing your style doesn’t solve the problem. Leaders must become skilled at managing conflict regardless of their style.

Why Is Conflict So Hard?

Despite their discomfort, a majority of leaders we work with agree that mastering conflict conversations is a worthy goal. Conflict done well can improve trust, boost psychological safety, drive innovation, lead to greater appreciation for diversity, and build commitment.

More on the surprising benefits of conflict in the workplace.

So why is it so hard?

The leaders we work with offer a variety of reasons for their discomfort with conflict.

  • Worry about hurting feelings and damaging relationships.
  • Negative experiences in the past.
  • Worry about negative consequences.
  • Personality style.
  • Hierarchy – fear of confronting someone in a position of authority or power.
  • Don’t know how.

Leaders Aren’t Equipped With Conflict Skills

The biggest barrier is this: Leaders don’t know how to do conflict productively. Lacking positive role models and having never received formal training in how to do conflict, they are left without the necessary tools to do their job.

A study by the Victoria State Services Commission in Australia discovered that managers spend 30-50% of their work lives managing conflict. These managers reported that they didn’t have adequate training for conflict and didn’t feel equipped to negotiate conflict effectively. One consequence is that employees didn’t trust their managers’ competence to deal with conflict.

Leaders Need an SOP For Conflict

Healthy conflict is such a critical part of any leader’s job that organizations can’t leave it up to chance. Conflict gone bad is simply too costly. 

Successful organizations don’t leave their most important processes up to chance. They create SOPs so that the processes that matter most are done the right way every time.

Leaders need an SOP for conflict. If you are building your own SOP, here are some criteria to guide the process.

What To Include In A Conflict SOP

  • A behavioral definition of what conflict is so everyone can recognize it.
  • A way to distinguish positive vs. negative conflict.
  • An easy-to-remember template for conducting conversations that maintains compassion AND accountability.
  • A method for reflecting, debriefing, and making adjustments.
  • A way to assess fidelity so teams can support each other and hold each other accountable.

It’s like “Stop Drop and Roll,” but for conflict.

I remember when my daughter came home from school one day in first grade, so excited to demonstrate what she’d learned about fire safety: Stop, Drop, and Roll. Stop, drop, and roll is a fire-safety technique to help minimize injury if a person’s clothes catch on fire.  It is simple, effective, and something anyone can remember under pressure. That’s what leaders need for conflict.

Do you have an SOP for Conflict? If not, you are leaving a lot up to chance, especially in situations where people are playing with fire.

We can help. We’ve been perfecting and teaching conflict SOPs for 15 years. Learn more in my book, Conflict Without Casualties.

We teach leaders and teams how to implement conflict SOPs in their culture. We help create customized templates for your most common and challenging conflict situations. We even certify internal trainers and coaches to help scale the skills.

Set up a time to talk.

Copyright, Next Element Consulting, LLC 2024

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