Handling conflicts in the new normal
This week, we turn to Yumi Wada, our resource person on leadership and mindfulness, for her take on handling conflicts in today’s work-from-home reality.
Conflicts are part and parcel of any social interaction or relationship. At some point, we encounter differences in our personalities, work styles, aspirations, beliefs and values with other people. When this happens, resolving them relies heavily on self-introspection, respectful dialogue, and an optimistic attitude and desire to move forward.
Depending on the factors surrounding the situation, we might resolve these conflicts via a unilateral decision, a mutually satisfying agreement, a middle-ground position, a submission or compliance, a withdrawal, or a combination of strategies.
Do we want to compete, or do we want to cooperate? However we decide to settle it, basic conflict resolution dictates that communication is key.
But what happens when we are deprived of face-to-face encounters? Working from home can create new challenges in the way we interact with the people we work with, or may worsen existing conflicts. There may be lingering concerns left unexpressed behind webcams, muted microphones and spotty internet connections.
As we continue to adapt to our new working environment, we must not only invest in our technical know-how, but also in the relationships we keep with the people working behind their computers.
Here are some tips for leaders and managers to help strengthen their trust and sensitivity with their teams, especially now as we work remotely from our homes:
Don’t make assumptions.
Have you caught yourself making assumptions about your team just based on what you see or hear on screen (or perhaps based on what you do not see or hear)? For instance, if someone decides to remain quiet throughout the meeting, keeps their video off, seems disconnected, distracted or conversely, hoards much of the air time and cannot be helped from unmuting themselves, would you be quick to make judgments of them? Would you say that they were annoying, lazy or perhaps show-offs?
Remember, there are many things you cannot see, hear, or feel through the computer screen. We do not always hear their spontaneous reactions and we do not always see their body language as how we normally would in face-to-face encounters. We also do not know the busyness of their household routine happening simultaneously behind the scenes, and all other personal challenges which may have changed due to the pandemic (plus the issue of their internet service reliability).
Be careful not to make hasty generalizations.
Ask yourself first, are your perceptions of them true based on factual proof? Also, be aware of how you react to people who may not work the same way you do. We all have different personalities and work styles. Remember, you’re not the only one struggling. They are, too.
Setup meetings that respect both the team and the individual.
During meetings or planning sessions, hiding behind muted microphones and switched off video cameras may seem like an easy escape for some of the more passive team members. But avoidant behavior worsens any ongoing communication. Team leaders and managers play a crucial role in providing direction, motivation, personal care and attention, and an acute sense of every person’s value and role in the team. Ignoring even the smallest concerns might become harder to tackle the longer it is unexpressed.
A helpful tip is to ask questions like “What are your questions and concerns?” instead of “Do you have questions?” to encourage open discussions. Make yourself available for consultations as well, assuring your team that you can be approached freely and that their issues would be taken seriously. Creating space for honest and respectful dialogue requires time, careful listening and questioning skills. If needed, hire a professional mediator to facilitate your discussions.
Promote optimism and team spirit.
Einstein once said, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” However challenging these conflicts may be in the context of this global crisis, they can also become turning points for necessary change and invitations for creativity. As leaders, your team looks to you for inspiration and innovation.
Though not all solutions have to necessarily come from you, the good example most certainly does! Build a culture of tolerance and understanding. Seek to hear the insights of everyone in your team and make certain that those involved in the dispute are also involved in creating the solutions. It will take more than good communication skills. Ultimately, the key is to ensure that the teams support each other throughout this period.
Wada will conduct a virtual workshop on “Handling Conflicts in the New Normal: Building Trust and Sensitivity” on Nov. 9 to Nov. 10. For your online learning needs, Inquirer Academy could assist you in designing and facilitating a webinar or virtual workshop for your organization. INQ
For more information about the workshops and schedule of online courses offered by Inquirer Academy, please email [email protected], or call 0945-2158935 and look for Jerald Miguel.
The author is the Executive Director of the Inquirer Academy.
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