Three Reasons Leaders Mismanage Conflict | Part 3

We’ve already addressed two main reasons leaders mismanage conflict: Invisible forces, and coping behaviors. But there’s a third way leaders mismanage conflict: Conflict capacity.

Conflict Capacity

Many front-line and middle managers tell me they feel insecure and uncertain about their decision-making as well as how to build accountability. They hesitate to make decisions because they fear their boss won’t support them. Directors hide problems from their VP because they want to be seen as competent. Their executive boss has likely said something like, “I’m not here to babysit,” or “I’m a hands off leader.”

Their interpretation is, “I hired you to do this job, so don’t bother me.” The domino effect is the VP or senior leader being blindsided when the problem turns into a legal risk. This interpretation contributes to a culture of avoidance.

How to make the shift: Recognize that conflict capacity is multifaceted and includes three components: skills development, the inner game and culture. Often, one of the three is missing when it comes to conflict management inside an organization. More than skills are required. For example, watching a one-hour video or taking a full day of training is often only sustainable with the second component, the inner game. The inner game is the individual’s commitment to building awareness and character.

No matter what kind of training is encouraged and no matter what type of character the leader has, if the culture doesn’t align, the efforts will not be sustainable. For example, if executives avoid bad news and difficult conversations, don’t expect the newly promoted director to right the ship. They won’t be supported, and as a result, the new leader learns quickly to align with the example in front of them. If managers aren’t making decisions, it could either be the internal game, or it could be cultural: they’re following examples at the top, or their past decisions have been overridden to keep peace.

Mismanaged conflict is costly to individuals, teams and organizations. Take a birds-eye view to examine how mismanaged conflict affects your organization and develop a plan to expand conflict capacity companywide.

If you want to read the entire article you can find it on SmartBrief where I’m a columnist.

I always welcome emails to understand how I can add more value to your leadership.

Marlene Chism