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The Leader's Role in Recognizing & Managing Team Conflict

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  • 0:00 The Different Leadership Roles
  • 1:12 Recognizing Conflict
  • 2:17 Managing Conflict
  • 3:55 Using Compromise
  • 4:28 Tips on Moving the…
  • 5:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Arielle Rose

Arielle has taught Business and Customer Service as well has Master's degree in Business Administration.

In this lesson, you will gain a brief overview of the leader's role in recognizing and managing team conflict. You will also gain an understanding of the hands-off approach to solving conflict and the risks of using compromise as conflict resolution tool.

The Different Leadership Roles

It's Monday morning, and Matt is ready for the week ahead. As the elevator chimes for his floor, he is greeted by a visibly upset team lead. As she begins to tell her side of the story, another lead approaches, also wanting to tell Matt what happened. All Matt can do is keep smiling as they escort him to his office, arguing with each other the entire way. Matt knows that what is unfolding before him has been brewing for a few weeks. However, he decided to take a hands-off approach to give his team leads the chance to solve this issue on their own.

There are many roles a leader can take in resolving conflict. Which role a leader chooses usually depends on his or her leadership style. For instance, there is the laissez-faire leader, like Matt, who tends to lead in a 'hands-off' style, letting employees take the lead on completing projects or resolving conflicts. There is also the more democratic leader, who engages his or her team in every decision. Another type of leader is the authoritative leader, who is more controlling and makes all the decisions for the team without their participation.

Recognizing Conflict

The number one reason for conflict is a lack of, or failure in, communication between two or more people. The leaders need to be able to recognize the point at which this occurs. This usually happens when two or more people fail to understand each other whether through online, face-to-face, or non-verbal dialogue. There are several ways to ensure understanding occurs during communication. These include using techniques such as active listening to paraphrase or repeat what was heard and understood, as well as taking the time to clarify solutions.

A breakdown in communication almost always leads to conflict due to misunderstandings. Recognizing these key moments is important to assessing and managing conflict. However, a leader must be careful to act as a guide rather than using authoritative power to manage team conflict. This means that a leader toes the line between being neutral and available to his or her team during conflict. Once a breakdown in communication is identified, the leader must assess the situation and decide whether or not to get actively involved.

Managing Conflict

Based on this assessment, the leader can take a hands-off approach, as Matt does, or decide to get immediately involved. This is where it gets tricky; as a leader you want to empower your team members to solve these issues on their own. Stepping in too prematurely can rob your team of an opportunity to work collaboratively together to solve the conflict. In this way, the conflict can strengthen the team and help develop communication skills.

If the leader decides to get actively involved, he or she must do so with a clear strategic plan in mind. For instance, are you going to mediate? If you decide to mediate, will you also make the final decision as to how the conflict is resolved? What processes will you implement to make sure everyone adheres to the new resolution? If you don't make the final decision, how will you help the team resolve the conflict? Compromise or collaboration? These are all questions a leader must answer before deciding to step in and manage team conflict.

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