4 Tips for Handling Team Conflicts as a Leader

Higher Ed Leadership Series

Team conflicts are inevitable. Trying to avoid them is like trying to never argue with your spouse. It’s going to happen, so you’re better off learning how to resolve conflicts than trying to avoid them altogether.

In fact, conflict can often be healthy when approached in the right way. I’m a BIG fan of using healthy conflict to foster creativity and innovation (more on that later).

In any case, knowing how to manage conflicts that arise within your team is an essential skill to have in your leadership toolkit. Here are 4 tips to help you the next time you’re faced with a team conflict:

1) Address it right away

Spoiler alert: the conflict isn’t going away on its own. Handling conflicts promptly can prevent them from escalating into bigger problems down the line. Plus, if others see there is an issue and you’re hesitant to act, it may hurt your reputation as a leader.

2) Be proactive

Getting to know your team members can diffuse conflict, or even prevent it altogether.

Leaders who are actively engaged with their team have a better understanding of the various personality types involved, and tend to experience less conflict.

3) Don’t pick a side

It’s important to remain objective and allow each person involved to be heard. As a leader, it’s not your job to decide who’s right or wrong. It’s your job to help your team members effectively reach a resolution.

4) Embrace healthy conflict

I’ll say it again: conflict can be HEALTHY! A team that never disagrees is probably a team that is lacking creativity & productivity. Differing opinions often lead to creative solutions, as long as you’re open to hearing all sides.

Friendly debates and competition at work can increase creativity, add new perspectives, encourage employee engagement, improve workplace relationships, and prevent groupthink.

We often dread conflict, but it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. And it certainly isn’t an indicator that anything has gone wrong (unless there is a deep recurring conflict that is negatively impacting your team).

Try implementing these tips so you can confidently address your next team conflict head-on!

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