Unresolved Conflict Virus: Costs and Cure

Conflict in working relationships can be costly. Unresolved conflict, along with the negative reactions that go hand in hand with conflict, can be deadly as coronavirus to your bottom line.

When people are tired, stressed, and have a lot on their minds the conditions are right to spread the infectious disease of negativity due to unresolved conflict. When those same people are involved in conflict and feel terrible because of that conflict, it spreads through your entire organization just like a sickness.

There are steps that you can take to resolve the conflict AND use it to strengthen the relationship and part of a healthy organization.

  1. Look the person in the eye, take a breath and let them know that you see the problem by describing it from your perspective. Include a description of your feelings.
  2. Invite the other person to describe the problem, and their feelings, from their point of view. Listen generously.
  3. Stop and evaluate. This could be a time to remind the person of other times the two of you have navigated disagreements successfully. And, the two of you may need some time to process the differences. You could suggest another meeting tomorrow, or just take a break by talking about something else for a few minutes (i.e. another client project that is going well). This is a good time to note if this is a pattern in the relationship.
  4. Invite the other person to help you define the problem using both of your perspectives. Tell the story again using both versions. Now you have a shared story and experience.
  5. Finally, brainstorm with the colleague about possible solutions to the problem that takes both perspectives into account. Choose one for the two of you to experiment with and then revise as needed.

Like any infectious disease, unresolved conflict that erodes healthy business relationships needs certain conditions. On the other hand, if you set up conflict as an opportunity to grow and learn, it can be a lifesaver for your business.

Shine a light on it. Don’t ignore conflict. It doesn’t just go away. It will come back to haunt you.

Put your sword of righteous anger down. Breathe deeply. Those deep breaths allow your executive functioning in your prefrontal cortex to come back online.

Be curious. Listen to understand, not to be right. Admit you don’t know all of the answers. Isolation sets us up to fail, and negativity from unresolved conflict to grow.

Use a growth mindset.
Be self-aware.
Be ready for the unexpected.
Be resilient.

Otherwise, your workplace may be full of the infection of negative energy, unresolved conflict and a lack of trust that will cost you and your company.

Shine the light of your leadership on conflict and practice resolving it. Build relationships on the promise of progress, not perfection.

Wendy Dickinson

About the Author

Wendy Dickinson is the founder of Ascend Coaching Solutions LLC, a coaching firm that specializes in working with business owners and executives who plan to expand their leadership capacity as their business grows.

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