23 Jul Millennial? 5 Ways to Up Your Conflict Resolution Game
Are you a millennial in the workplace? If you are then you’re in good company. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, your generation will make up more than half of the workplace by 2020. But they have one major issue in the office—being able to resolve conflicts at work. Think masters of avoidance.
Unfortunately, some of the tech savvy that makes Millennials so desirable in the workplace has also stunted them when it comes to facing conflict head with team members or even relationship building.
That’s because more than half of the workplace (Millennials and Xennials) are at ease with text and online communications. But, when it comes to emotional intelligence and face-to-face interactions, many are still having a tough time. They are seeking working environments with harmony and opportunities for personal growth—sometimes even prioritizing it over pay grades.
Conflict is uncomfortable, unfortunately it’s also unavoidable. And the truth is that healthy conflict can improve results at work, build trust and improve existing working relationships.
Here are five ways you can start working on your own conflict resolution skills at your present (or future) employer:
1. Listen more.
Active listening can help to resolve conflict or even prevent it. In today’s “hustle and grind” working culture, sometimes it can feel like meetings are a waste of time. It’s easy to try to get your points in and move on quickly with takeaways and next steps, but make sure you aren’t sending the wrong signals.
If you are cutting off your colleagues or not asking for their opinions then you’re missing an important opportunity to build a bridge. And whether that’s a bridge between team members or departments, it’s important to close gaps to keep team members connected and comfortable communicating. Actively listening to your team members is also an important way of letting them know that you respect them and value what they bring to the table.
It builds trust. The more trust and respect you have built with your colleagues the fewer politics and confrontations you’ll have to deal with in the future.
2. Stay open to feedback.
In business, there are few things more critical to your success than being able to openly receive feedback. When a team member has a different opinion or doesn’t like the solution that you’re bringing to the table, be appreciative and receptive. Thank them immediately, tell them that you value their experience and ask for their recommendations. Showing you’re open to feedback and collaboration helps to build up your working relationships.
If you realize after a meeting that you could’ve been more receptive to feedback from a coworker, extend an olive branch and take it offline. Find a way to connect with them in person if possible or via phone.
That dialogue might start something like this “I got so caught up in the throes of the meeting today that I don’t know if I made time to really hear your perspective. I value your opinion; can you go into the details again with me now? I want to make sure your voice is a part of this process”.
3. Take people along for the ride.
Many sales and marketers are in change agent positions, hired or being hired to bring fundamental changes to our new organizations. While change is important, history and experience is valuable too. Make sure before implementing or suggesting any new changes you are taking stock of the people who came first.
Invite veteran employees to share their feedback of what has worked in the past and what hasn’t. Take some time to absorb the culture and understand what drives different departments.
If you come in and try to make changes without involving stakeholders with other skillsets then yours could easily come into question. Also, not collaborating and openly involving other team members can permanently damage working relationships. Whatever you’re doing, you need to make sure you’re involving key stakeholders at every level and making them feel valued and involved. Otherwise you can easily turn off them and in turn, their peers and work alliances.
4. Don’t dodge difficult conversations.
If a team member comes to you to talk out a disagreement, make that dialogue a priority. If you’re caught off guard or they seem heated, make sure you let them know that you’re in the middle of something, but you’ll come back to them later.
When you do talk make sure you hear them out without interjecting. Listen and reflect on what she’s said. Thank her for coming to you and let them know that you’re hearing what they’re saying. For instance, if a colleague comes to you saying that you left her out of an important feedback loop and that’s contributing to siloes at your organization, let them know you understand. Offer and apology along the lines of “Sally, I apologize, that wasn’t my intention at all but obviously I failed since you’re feeling this way. Our working relationship is important and so is your input. I’ll make sure to include you in these feedback loops moving forward, and please feel free to come to me directly with any concerns you have in the future. I value your honesty.”
5. Put yourself in your coworker’s position.
Whether you’re dealing with a colleague who really gets on your last nerve or you’re trying to sort out a conflict, put yourself in your coworker’s position. Seriously. Take a mental inventory of the time, energy and efforts he invests in his role. Get a clear understanding of what’s important to him—usually that’s just working in an environment where his skills and hard work are valued and appreciated.
If the roles were reversed, how would you feel in his position? And, how much of his day-to-day work has (unintentionally) gone unnoticed?
Being able to relate to your colleagues makes it easier to understand what matters to them so you can meet them on their level.
Fake it till you make it.
Conflict is tough, and building conflict resolution skills doesn’t just happen overnight. But if you really listen and make others feel valued and heard then you’re halfway there.
Meet the Author
Evelyn Vega is the Founder and President at Staffing Strong and the Past President of the Phoenix American Marketing Association. Since 1999, she’s made her career about supporting her clients in building meaningful careers and partnering with businesses in finding quality hires. In her free time, Evelyn sits on various advisory boards and enjoys practicing on her drum kit!