Where there are great teams or even bad ones, there is conflict. One of the biggest struggles for small business owners to CEOs of fortune 500 companies is handling conflict.
How to handle conflict as a CEO?
Often conflict can be healthy and healthy companies win by handling it incredibly well. But in many cases conflict can become unhealthy and can spiral a company downwards. As a CEO, there are three basic rules for a healthy conflict
- Don’t call someone out in front of the entire team or group of people.
- Use the phone instead of texting.
- Don’t leave any conflict unresolved.
Praise in public, criticize in private
In my early years as an employee in several companies, I have been yelled at a couple of times in front of others. The experience is unpleasant. So if I feel bad, others will too if you call them out in front of others. If you do end up calling someone out, do apologize to the person in front of the entire team so everyone can see that you are taking accountability for your mistake. If you see some kind of conflict or someone not doing their bit, pull them off to the side for a quick five-minute meeting. These are the courageous conversations where you have healthy conflict, and you leave more unified, with a weight off your shoulders.
Texting is a great way to solve problems quickly. The greatest thing about texting is that it’s asynchronous. But when it comes to conflict, you need to stop texting. Texting or emails often fail to communicate the message and lead to confusion and misunderstanding. The moment you have any conflict with someone, pick up the phone and call the person if you can’t talk face-to-face. Crush the conflict in its tracks.
Give time but don’t let conflicts go unresolved
When you’re emotional, you’re not rational. Think of when you’ve got an email from someone that got you really pissed off. It’s easy to express your anger and write a befitting reply to please your ego. You should avoid doing that. Follow the 24-hour rule. Write a draft email instead and save it as a draft. Get a good night’s sleep and send the email after 24 hours. That way you are not in a state of emotion and aware of what you are communicating.
Another issue is dealing with managers or other people who are not good at controlling their emotions. Often you’ll see these people who often lash out at other team members and create a toxic work atmosphere. It’s hard to deal with such people, but if you don’t, you’ll end up losing a lot of valuable people in the organization. In such cases you need to talk to such people and tell them to ‘stop’ and if they don’t adhere, you need to fire them. Never, ever, allow a conflict to go unresolved.
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FAQ – How to Handle Conflict as a CEO?
Q: Why is conflict management important for CEOs? A: Conflict is a natural occurrence in any team or organization, and it can either be healthy or unhealthy. For CEOs, effective conflict management is crucial to maintain a positive work environment, retain valuable employees, foster productivity, and prevent conflicts from escalating and damaging the company.
Q: What are the three basic rules for healthy conflict as a CEO? A:
- Avoid public call-outs: It is important not to criticize or confront someone in front of the entire team or group of people. Publicly addressing conflicts can be embarrassing and detrimental to team morale.
- Use direct communication: When dealing with conflicts, opt for phone calls or face-to-face conversations instead of relying on texting or emails. Verbal communication allows for clearer expression, reduces misinterpretation, and helps resolve conflicts more effectively.
- Resolve conflicts promptly: It is essential not to let conflicts linger unresolved. Addressing conflicts promptly prevents them from escalating and causing further damage to relationships and team dynamics.
Q: Why is it important to praise in public and criticize in private? A: Praising employees in public boosts morale and motivation, while privately addressing criticism allows for constructive feedback without damaging their self-esteem. Public criticism can create a negative atmosphere, erode trust, and undermine team cohesion.
Q: How should a CEO handle conflict that arises in the workplace? A: If conflict arises, CEOs should follow these steps:
- Address the conflict promptly and directly with the individuals involved.
- Schedule a private meeting or conversation to discuss the issues at hand.
- Encourage open communication and active listening to understand all perspectives.
- Facilitate a constructive dialogue to find a mutually acceptable resolution.
- Ensure accountability by following up on the resolution and monitoring progress.
Q: Why is verbal communication preferred over texting or emailing during conflicts? A: Verbal communication is preferred during conflicts because it allows for tone of voice, body language, and real-time interaction, which can help clarify intentions and reduce misunderstandings. Texting or emailing can often lead to misinterpretations, prolong conflict resolution, and hinder effective communication.
Q: What is the 24-hour rule in conflict management? A: The 24-hour rule suggests taking a pause before responding to a conflict-triggering message or situation. Instead of reacting impulsively, it is advisable to draft a response, save it, and revisit it after 24 hours with a calmer mindset. This approach helps avoid hasty and emotionally driven reactions that can exacerbate conflicts.
Q: How should CEOs handle employees who consistently display emotional outbursts or create a toxic work atmosphere? A: CEOs should address such behavior by:
- Holding a private conversation with the individual, expressing concern about their behavior, and its impact on the team.
- Setting clear expectations and boundaries for professional conduct.
- Offering support or resources for anger management or emotional regulation.
- If the behavior persists and negatively affects the team, termination may be necessary to maintain a healthy work environment.
Q: Why is it crucial not to leave conflicts unresolved as a CEO? A: Unresolved conflicts can fester and grow, leading to a toxic work environment, decreased productivity, damaged relationships, and increased turnover. As a CEO, it is essential to address conflicts promptly and find resolution to maintain a positive and thriving workplace culture.