5 Approaches to Lead Through Conflict

How do you respond to tense situations in the workplace?

Do you freeze up? Snap back? Ignore it? Handle it… but just not the way you wish you did?

How you respond to conflict says a lot about who you are as a leader. Will your approach show strength and illicit trust or will it show something else?

Leaning into discomfort and leading others out of it is an important skill that will be highly valued by those around you and lead to greater opportunities long-term.

Want to get started?

Then leverage these five approaches to improve your confidence, perspective, and conflict management. 

Crush Conflict with These 5 Approaches

  1. Determine What You Stand For
    • If your challenge is speaking up in a tense environment, then it might be because you don’t see speaking up as worth the trouble it causes or feel your position isn’t valid enough.
    • In order to conquer this you need to get clear on your values in the workplace and the importance of your voice. This will give you a higher sense of purpose which translates to more courage.
    • For example: your opinion might not just represent you personally, it may represent an entire department or the customers at large. And are they not worth having an advocate in you?
  2. Their Response is Not About You
    • It’s difficult to not take things personally and to not get our egos in the mix when someone challenges us.
    • By recognizing the situation for what it is you will have greater command of your emotions and be more successful in navigating the situation.
    • If they are overreacting to the situation it is because of something they are dealing with personally, it’s not because of you. 
  3. Keep Calm and Lead On
    • With a clear idea on why what you say matters and understanding that their negative responses are not about you personally, it should be easier for you to stay calm.
    • By staying calm you will bring their energy down to a reasonable level.
    • Still not feeling very calm? Bite your tongue, remind yourself that this response is not about you, speak more slowly, and fake it until you make it. 
  4. Suss Out Their Why
    • When someone is upset, try to identify what it is they care about most and ignore how (poorly) they’re delivering the message.
    • Then, ask them if you are understanding them correctly. This does a lot to bring down their energy as they will feel heard. For example: “what I am hearing is that you are concerned about the customer experience, is that correct?” Then proceed with discussing the true issue at hand.
  5. Set Some Boundaries
    • If someone becomes rude, disrespectful, or abusive it is critical to establish boundaries.
    • Avoid directing their behavior or making assumptions about their intentions, instead state what you will do in response to what their behavior is.
    • For example: “if you call me names, I will not discuss this with you.” This typically solves the issue, but if they continue to persist after you’ve addressed it pull in a trusted colleague or HR for advice.   

Don’t let external conflict cause inner turmoil, leverage these approaches and you’ll find yourself in a much better position to lead everyone into a healthy and productive place.

Rachel Woodman has 13 years of sales, marketing, and business experience primarily within Corporate America. She loves to learn, coach, and otherwise discuss everything leadership, career, job skills, and resume building. She currently resides in Minneapolis-St. Paul.


Conflict Management, Leadership Skills, Management

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