March 16


Emotional Intelligence: The Pathway to Conflict Resolution

By Robert Grossman

March 16, 2020

Developing Your Leaders and Managers in Emotional Intelligence is the Pathway to Conflict Resolution.

Workplace conflict is inevitable.    Conflict occurs in our daily human interactions with team members, managers, clients, and customers. It builds during short and long-term projects and is aggravated by differences in individual goals, values, communication skills, and leadership styles.

Truly, conflict is present in every workplace. What’s different is how leaders and teams deal with it. When managers know how to resolve conflict effectively, they save time by turning potentially destructive situations into positive opportunities for growth and team development. When teams resolve the conflict together, they better understand how diverse viewpoints can produce amazing results.

Effectively dealing with conflict is one of the most challenging aspects of being a leader. When faced with conflict, many leaders respond quickly with a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction. In doing this, they may miss more effective options available. One example of this is people who always seem to respond negatively to change or new ideas. They may not understand that well-managed conflict supports the diversity of thought and can spark creativity and challenge employees to think about ways to improve methods, procedures, and business outputs.

Managers who succeed in conflict resolution are often also skilled in emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence means understanding one’s own emotions and how they affect decision making. People with strong emotional intelligence recognize their own emotions and use that information to strengthen their decision-making skills. They are better able to identify the areas they need to improve on, to adapt leadership styles to different audiences, and to manage their emotions in response to challenging situations. To successfully manage conflict, one needs to understand the five different conflict management styles and strengthen emotional leadership skills.

The Five Conflict Management Styles

A collaborative conflict management style helps people to work together, supports diversity and creativity, and shows concern for the group over the individual. It involves redefining the problem at hand to find a solution that meets each individual’s needs and strengthens the team as a whole through collaborative learning.

A conflict management style involves a deep concern for self and a deep concern for others. These leaders put their interests before anyone else’s, which produces a disruptive style of conflict management and can cause stress and the fear of communicating issues and concerns.

A compromise involves a common concern for self and a common concern for others. Individuals choose this style of conflict management when it is essential to satisfy some of their interests, but not all of them. These managers don’t mind ‘splitting the difference’ or agreeing that ‘something is better than nothing.’

Individuals who choose avoidance in response to the conflict would instead not get involved. This is, unfortunately, a frequent response to conflict from leadership – who use restraint until the problem can’t be ignored any longer.

Accommodation conflict management occurs when one has a low concern for self and a high concern for others. People who choose accommodation put their interests last and let others have what they want. These managers may believe that a good relationship with team members is most important overall.

Tips for Successful Conflict Resolution

Regardless of how conflict starts, it’s hazardous to leave the problem unaddressed – or practicing ‘avoidance.’ Ignoring conflict can have catastrophic results and lead to weak teams and unhealthy employee interactions. All managers should strive to identify and minimize conflict while understanding that some conflict – through the diversity of thought, for instance – can spark creativity and dynamic problem solving and result in positive outcomes. Understanding how each conflict management style affects both individuals and teams is essential.

The first step to effectively resolving conflict is creating safe feedback channels, where employees feel comfortable asking questions, sharing concerns, and reporting issues. This helps managers identify conflict before it gets out of hand and strengthens communication skills in employees to help them resolve future conflicts on their own.

Creating a Workplace of Proactive Conflict Resolution Means:

  1. Encouraging employees to speak up about conflict and understanding the need to address it quickly.
  2. Giving employees the skills to communicate effectively and space and opportunity to do so.
  3. Providing a safe environment for employees to work through conflict before it escalates.

It’s important to remember that conflict is normal and can play a healthy role in our daily lives. For example, misunderstandings can arise from miscommunication. Leaders should think about what and how they communicated something new to the team before jumping to conclusions about workplace conflict.

In addition, conflicts can occur when one person’s desires or needs interfere with their coworker’s wants or needs. Leaders with strong emotional intelligence can identify these emotions in their coworkers and understand how this affects their performance. In response, they identify ways their team can work together to set goals, track deliverables, and collaborate on shared solutions.

Effective conflict resolution skills can make the difference between positive and negative business outcomes. No matter how small a workplace conflict seems, it may feel very important to at least one member of the team. Leaders must take the time to communicate with team members to identify and solve issues at the time they occur rather than waiting for them to grow.

How can you help employees and managers strengthen conflict resolution skills? Leadership training and team development activities designed and implemented by professional leadership coaches can help your leaders and team members:

  • Understand the essential elements of conflict and its key causes
  • Recognize the five conflict management styles
  • Learn skills to engage in constructive conflict, including competition
  • Enhance personal conflict management skills
  • Identify and work with ‘difficult people’
  • Define the causes of organizational conflict and identify ones in your organization
  • Take personal ownership of conflict management, including identification and communication
  • Enhance corporate conflict management with improved processes and procedures

As we know, workplace conflict is unavoidable. What’s preventable is mismanagement of these daily situations. Leaders who have been allowed to strengthen their skills in emotional intelligence, communication, and conflict resolution are better able to support their teams and create positive experiences from conflict.

Robert Grossman

About the author

Robert S. Grossman is a business growth consultant, trainer/facilitator, coach and speaker with decades of experience. Having achieved success in both the corporate world and as an entrepreneur, Robert has helped hundreds of companies with high-performance strategic consulting, training and communications. He coaches business leaders, CEOs, presidents, entrepreneurs and sales professionals.

Robert brings 30 years of experience as a business owner, executive coach, Vistage chair and an award-winning communicator.

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