Conflict isn’t always something that anyone wants to deal with, but disagreements happen all the time – and business meetings are no exception. For business leaders and managers, the ability to manage conflict between two sides in a business setting can be very useful. 

Good vs. Bad Ways to Address Conflict

Did you know that not all conflict is bad? In fact, conflict should be encouraged in organizations when it’s created in an appropriate manner. Without conflict, businesses and organizations will never change or grow. Healthy conflict can help spur organizations make changes that will improve performance, workplace culture, processes and other areas of business.

What are the differences between good ways to address conflict versus bad ways to address conflict? Here are some important differences between good ways to handle conflict vs bad ways to handle conflict during meetings:

Healthy Conflict:

  • Facing conflict head-on
  • Contributing constructive feedback
  • Focusing on issues, and not people
  • Focusing on the future rather than the past
  • Bringing the group together in the interest of solving a common problem or issue
  • Hearing what the other party has to say
  • Compromising to come to an agreement

Unhealthy Conflict:

  • Avoiding conflict
  • Providing destructive feedback
  • Focusing on people, and not the issues at hand
  • Focusing on what happened in the past rather than the future
  • Dividing or alienating people in a group or organization
  • Showing signs of being withdrawn, or responds an angry or defensive manner
  • Refusing to compromise with the other party

Stressing the importance of “healthy conflict” will help mitigate the chances of conflict getting out of hand during meetings. Organizations can do their part by educating employees on the distinctions between good vs. bad conflict. This will help avoid “unhealthy conflict” in the workplace.

How to Address Conflict Resolution During Meetings

Meetings can be a common time for disagreements to take place. Unfortunately, conflict isn’t always addressed in a positive manner during meetings. There can be many reasons why a workplace conflict can take place – and when conflict gets out of hand, managers and leaders need to step in to mediate. While managers and leaders aren’t mediators by trade, the ability to help resolve conflicts between two parties can save the team from the negative impact arguments can have.

Tips from Jeremy Pollack

How can leaders and managers effectively handle conflict so that a disagreement doesn’t escalate and become a long-term distraction? Jeremy Pollack, of Pollack Peacebuilding Systems has some conflict resolution tips for managers to keep in mind:

1 – Validate Each Perspective

“Conflicts in meetings often arise because at least one person does not feel his or her perspective has been seriously considered. It is especially important for leaders to clearly indicate that all ideas will be taken seriously and all voices will be considered. If you notice conflict emerging, step in, and repeat what you hear from each individual. You may even conspicuously show you are taking notes on what each person says. Repeating and note-taking show you are listening and truly considering each person’s perspective.”

2 – Reflect Value in Ideas

“Building on the notion of validation, conflict often emerges because people feel their ideas have been immediately rejected. Even if you quickly find problems with someone’s idea or perspective, do not quickly reject it. Instead, try to find some value in the idea and reflect its merit. Let them know you hear them and understand why they brought this up. If you cannot find the value, then ask the individual why they think it would be a good idea. Do this from a place of curiosity, not from a place of challenge or defense.” 

3 – Ask for Solutions

“After validating and finding merit in someone’s ideas or positions, if you still see problems with someone’s position, instead of unilaterally rejecting it, ask them if they have thought of solutions. Present the challenges you see with their position, and then invite them into the conversation by asking if they could suggest ways to tackle such challenges. This, again, gives them a sense of validation as well as control. They have a voice here that matters. They can have an impact. Take that away, and conflict is sure to erupt.”

4 – Normalize Emotions

“As the leader, it’s your job to hold a safe space for meetings. In other words, you need to set the tone for the meeting to remain a place to freely but respectfully express opinions and feelings without the fear of rejection or retaliation. When you notice someone becoming emotional, you need to remain centered and stable and indicate that it is okay to express any feelings in this space. In other words, let everyone know that having strong emotions is normal and that this is a safe place to express them, as long as everyone remains respectful of each other. If this is not okay or the emotional expression becomes inappropriate, then it will be your job to end the meeting and debrief with the emotional individual to let them know you’re here for support.”

5 – Remain Calm

“Whatever happens, you must remain calm. If individuals get escalated and you hope to de-escalate the situation, you’ll need to do this from a calm and balanced place. If you become escalated, it will only make things worse. When you notice your heart starts to race or your emotions arise, focus on your breathing. You might even have a mantra that you repeat to yourself–something like “Stay calm. Stay centered.” [repeat] And above all, commit to yourself that, no matter what, you will not erupt emotionally during a team meeting.”

6 – Take a Break

“If you notice the meeting is spiraling off the rails, and especially if you’re having trouble staying calm, then pause the meeting and suggest a break. Sometimes, the momentum just needs to be halted. Suggest a 10-minute bathroom or coffee break. People can use the time to cool off a bit and get back to rational thinking, rather than remaining in defense mode.”

In Closing

Conflict is going to happen during business meetings. When disagreements can up during meetings that can be detrimental to the team and work environment, leaders and managers should address conflict.

It’s important to document a conflict resolution meeting. You can take meeting notes or record meetings. Check out our easy to use meeting management software, yoyomeeting. From planning meetings to recording meetings, to meeting recaps, our Microsoft plug-in is designed to make the whole meeting process as seamless as possible.

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