Did you go into management to deal with conflict within your team? I’m guessing the answer to this question will be no, however the reality is that this can end up taking up a lot of time and energy. Of course you need to accept that conflict is going to happen, but it is how we deal with conflict that has an impact on a team’s performance. Ignoring it is not an option.
I am an Early Years Consultant with Herts for Learning and have 15 years leadership and management experience in early year’s settings. As you can imagine, I didn’t get it right straight away. I learnt lessons from my many different experiences and continue to learn to this day. As a result, I thought it might be helpful to share our top tips for dealing with conflict within your team
Our top tips:
- You can’t change the message, but you can change the delivery. I have learned the importance of adapting your leadership style to suit the personalities within your team. The old adage ‘it’s not what you say but how you say it’ couldn’t be more appropriate.‘10% of conflicts are due to difference in opinion, 90% are due to the wrong tone of voice’ Unknown. It may appear that this in itself could be time consuming in as much as you have to deliver the same message in a variety of ways, but it is worth bearing in mind the subsequent time you may well need to spend dealing with the fall out
- Do you know your team? For example who are the supporters, the doers or the blockers? It is vital to identify the qualities each team member brings to the ‘table’ so that you can make best use of these especially when managing change
- It is important to realise that not all decisions will be popular, so as a manager you need to be able to recognise whether a message needs to be told or ‘sold’
- From experience, it is important to take the time to explain why a decision has been made, as this will go a long way to help eliminate friction when delivering unpopular messages
- If there is conflict then there is a problem. Where there is a problem there will be a solution. Never ignore conflict. These things rarely go away by themselves but snowball and escalate
- Think about how you manage conflict resolution with children. You do not always fix it, but talk with the children and allow them to come up with their own solution so all parties are happy. You are teaching them the art of compromise. Surely the same can be applied to staff. Do not get involved in idle gossip or the ‘he said, she said’ debate but allow staff the time and space (away from the children) to have these conversations and empower them to identify a sensible resolution "The better able team members are to engage, speak, listen, hear, interpret, and respond constructively, the more likely their teams are to leverage conflict rather than be levelled by it." Runde and Flanagan
- You need to make staff aware that if they grumble to you and expect you to act on it, that you cannot do this anonymously. It will need to be formalised, documented and acted upon. From experience I recognise that this will help to stop staff bombarding you with ‘playground’ problems
I know that sometimes it can be lonely at the top, but by handling conflict and not ignoring it, you will gain the respect of the staff, develop a positive, trusting atmosphere for the team to work within and have more time to focus on the important issues.
If you have found this blog interesting and thought provoking you may want to reflect on how you can further develop your leadership skills or further develop your team. For further support please look on the Early Years improvement services page for details of various support packages and training events.