Resolving dispute concept

The line between being overly-assertive and standing one’s ground can be tricky for managers in a workplace. To be respected, a leader needs to have a backbone on certain issues, but at the same time they need to express it in a way that doesn’t emasculate staff or lower morale. Inevitably, any frontline cleaning manager, distributor representative or cleaning franchise owner is going to get in a dispute or two. The difference between productive leadership often comes down to the way in which these disputes are settled. 

To help managers productively disagree and resolve conflicts int he workplace, HBR outlined three actionable tips that can leave both sides at ease after disputes while maintaining. workplace positivity

1. Be willing to learn. Inevitably, there are going to be points of contention among co-workers or a manager-employee, whether it’s a personal preference of work-related issue. Even if a consensus isn’t met, the way that disagreeing points are expressed can go a long way to finding a resolution and diffusing tension. If someone goes into a disagreement with the obvious sense that their stance can’t be changed in any matter, the other side won’t want to bother interacting with them. By instead showing a willingness to hear the other side and potentially learn something new, it can bring more productive discussion even if an opinion isn’t ultimately changed. 

2. Have belief that the other side could want to learn from you. Similar to the original point, but this refers to the prism of someone on the other side of a disagreement. If one believes that the other side has no actual interest in learning anything from the discussion, then subconsciously there won’t be as much effort to have a constructive conversation. Per studies from HBR, people tend to give themselves more credit as someone willing to hear the other person out compared to their counterpart, which often reveals an inaccurate bias. Essentially, it’s best to not assume how stubborn the other side may be. 

3. To avoid the two aforementioned scenarios, a perceived unwillingness to learn from an argument for either side can be diffused by explicitly stating what one wants to get out the discussion. By stating personal experiences on doing a procedure a typical way, for example, it could help level with someone disagreeing with you as it shows that you aren’t simply arguing to argue, but that you have a basis for behind claim (even if they still believe your stance is wrong). It could also reinforce that the disagreement isn’t personal with the counterpart, but simply revolves around a subject where personal issues have arisen.  

For related content, check out these tips on preventing employee burnout