The Top 5 Ways To Manage Conflict Like A Boss

Do you have coworkers or clients at your job? Yeah, that’s what I thought. People man, they’re everywhere. The thing about people is, as awesome as they are, they come with personalities, feelings, & trigger responses. Not just a few people either, like all of them. Even you. And no matter how well you’ve built a team, perfected your service, and represented your brand you will have conflict. Believe it or not, conflict is a necessary and even healthy part of running an effective business. Conflict, if managed correctly, can bring to light overlooked deficiencies in processes and systems and often leads quickly to resolution, innovation, and change. Cool right? Yeah well, when you’re in management it’s easy to feel like you are drowning in conflict and tension at times. Being the boss means that you are ultimately responsible for not only customer experience, but also employee’s well-being and intra-company harmony. Sound like a big job? It is. Managing conflict like a boss just takes practice though so take a deep breath and whatever you do..

1. Don’t Meet Emotion With Emotion — Anytime someone comes at you with angry or let’s call it, “passionate” energy, it’s very easy to get drawn into that negative space. People in a rage often say inflammatory things to incite you to get on their level. Don’t. As hard as it is, keep breathing and start thinking. As a leader, the moment you match negative emotion with negative emotion, you’ve lost. You don’t necessarily lose the argument (though you totally have), but you lose your credibility as an effective leader. Leaders are problem solvers not tantrum throwing toddlers. Your job right now, is to understand the problem and react only to the problem, not the emotion. So stay blind & deaf to tears, red faces, angry tones, & foot stomping. The only thing you care about right now is understanding the problem and the best way to understand a problem is to …

2. Ask Questions to Get Control of the Conversation — Letting the other person talk may seem like relinquishing control of the conversation, but by asking questions you are giving the conversation direction. The questions set the tone for the response as well, so let’s start off with the easy ones first. If you’re talking to a client, or an employee you’ve not met before, start with asking their name. (Extra points for writing it down in front of them) Remember the angry party expects you to get angry too. Staying calm and amicable while asking easy questions takes the wind out of their sails a bit and they will visibly become calmer. Pro tip: Try not to ask yes/no questions. You want explanations with clues as to where to take the conversation next, so ask questions that sound like statements. My favorites: “Tell me more about…” , “Let me make sure I understand…” , “So you feel like…” “If all had gone well, tell me how it would have looked…” The more the person talks, the calmer they are going to get because they will equate “speaking time” with control. That’s perfect. Keep asking questions until they are at the same calm energy level as you. When they feel you’re responsive and invested that’s when you..

3. Agree on the Problem — Even though you’ve been talking for a few minutes at this point, don’t make assumptions. It could be that the problem that walked in the room wasn’t the real problem and you’ve uncovered a few things along the way. So for the sake of not making a bigger mess, repeat back to them the key points. If you get the points wrong, that’s okay. They will be more than happy to correct you and that will only sharpen the focus on the issue. Just make sure that before you start moving toward any resolution that you’re resolving the correct issue and not creating new ones. Once you’ve got the problem(s) nailed down…

4. Assure them that you got this — No seriously, say that out loud. At this point, our “passionate” counterpart has been given an opportunity to state their concerns and you have been (for the love of God) listening attentively for context clues. Now say out loudthat this problem has a solution and that you will find it together. People don’t want to be passed off and forgotten. Depending on the problem, you may not be able to provide an immediate answer. If that’s the case, say what you can do right now never what you can’t do. The moment you say “I can’t”, you’ve reignited the problem and made yourself irrelevant to the solution. They’re going over your head now and trust me, you won’t have a hero role in the re-telling of the story. So assure them that you’ve got a cape in your back pocket and whatever happens next you’re in this together. Then you can move on to my favorite part which is…

5. Give Them 2 Options — People want to feel that they have control of what happens next. Offering “options” is a great way to make sure that the other person feels they have control of the outcome (even though you’re the one providing the options, so you’re the one really in control. Cool right?) and the solution was their idea so how could they possibly argue with it? Short answer: They can’t. Also human nature is such that when presented with options, you will choose one. For example, I don’t ask my kid if she wants to go take a shower; I ask her if she wants to take a shower before or after dinner. The shower isn’t an option, the timing is. She feels she has control, it’s a drama free evening for mommy. win/win

Side note: It’s okay to be passionate, it’s okay to be upset and even angry. It is not okay to be abusive. Abusive customers and coworkers should never be engaged in further conversation. They should be escorted out of the building according to the policies of your organization.