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De-escalating and Resolving Conflict

Conflict often arises from two places and as it escalates the starting point of the conflict becomes blurred.

Core values not being met 

Rarely is a disagreement about surface issues. Determine what’s most important to an employee or co-worker by understanding their core values. Use the insight to help create long-lasting solutions based on what will satisfy all parties involved.

Interpretations Of Events Differ

Recognize that all we all have individual lenses and filters through which we see and respond to our environments — and no two are the same. Deciphering the code and seeing things from the perspectives of others offers you a new way to understand and approach problems. We do this through effective communication, asking, listening, clarifying, withholding judgement.


Understanding the What’s In It For Me position is critical. It is absolutely essential to understand other’s motivations prior to weighing in. Be able to discuss what is important to the other person(s) involved and to share what is important to you in a calm manner will help reduce tension and reassure others that the goal is to achieve the best outcome for everyone involved.


Identify what you see in neutral, objective terms. This is where you describe the facts of the situation as objectively as possible.

What is actually happening?

When and how is it happening?

What is the other person doing or saying that you believe is contributing to the conflict?

What are you doing that may be contributing to the conflict?

Cite observable facts only.

Avoid assuming or guessing what the other person is thinking or doing. Ask, listen, clarify, reserve judgement.

Avoid ‘owning’ the other person’s behaviour.

Expect accountability from all parties.


1.          What would you like to see happen?

2.          What would it take for us to be able to move forward?

3.          How do we get there?

4.          What impact has this had on you?

5.          Are you open to hearing my perspective on this?

6.          What ideas do you have that will meet both our needs?

7.          What is your biggest concern about this situation?

8.          What is the most important to you?


Often in conflict we feel the other person(s) involved owe us an apology and it is understandable that offering an apology in such a situation seems counter intuitive. However, usually everyone involved has done something to create and sustain the conflict.

Even when we believe we are ‘right’ conflicts will stay active unless we can move off our position and be focussed on resolution. Regardless of how insignificant we see our role in a conflict someone needs to take the initiative to resolve it.

You’re not accepting the blame; you’re taking responsibility for your contribution to the situation. When someone feels defensive indicating that you see your role in the situation helps him or her step away from an entrenched position.

Appreciate ProblemSolutionID-10082460

Tell them why it’s worth it to you to solve the conflict. This can be difficult as few people find it easy to praise and appreciate a person they disagree strongly with, but it’s a great way to move forward.

Choose your battles wisely.


Managing Negativity, Angry Outbursts & Hyper Critical Behaviour At Work


People who tend to negativity and find fault often with others are sometimes unaware of how they may be creating or contributing to the problems they complain about. They may feel a sense of control in pointing out what is wrong as if it is the responsibility of others to solve all problems or conflicts. That behaviour is likely feeding an unmet need to control their environment and distance themselves from situations where they feel they have little control.

In workplace cultures that function effectively it is fine to report an issue. It is important to note that the leaders in these organizations require that to do so the person bringing the issue must also bring a viable solution. This is an additional opportunity for managers to coach employees to look at solutions rather than problems and to learn to seek information that supports their solutions, both of which are valuable skills.

Do This

When a complaint or problem focussed discussion starts, redirect everyone involved toward a solution. If needed take a break, while establishing that the discussion will resume when everyone is able to stay focussed on a solution. Negativity, frequent complaining, and criticizing are not productive nor should it be tolerated. This behaviour has a tendency to ‘creep’ outward and affects others in non-productive ways creating needless stress.

These questions help redirect discussions that get off track:

  • What are you really committed to doing [to solve this problem, to achieve this goal etc.]?
  • What has to be true for success to happen?
  • What outcome do you want to see? Why?
  • What do you need to move forward?
  • What are you missing?
  • What do you expect of me?
  • What other ideas do you have that might help?
  • What input have you gathered from others that might help?


Listen, Ask, Listen

Understanding how a person is motivated, how their personality style affects their information processing and how their emotional intelligence drives behaviour, provides a leader with guidance to influence more positive behaviour. Leaders get busy and may lose touch with what is driving behaviour in their workplace. When a client is telling me the story that relates to the topic they want to discuss I always ask them some form of ‘what the individuals involved would tell me about the situation’ and it isn’t unusual for the hesitation, then, the acknowledgement “I am not really sure” to follow the question. This is a signal that it is time to spend more time listening, asking and listening some more.

Leaders are both role models and guides to acceptable behaviour in the workplace, the more you understand what drives behaviour, your own and others, the more adept you will be at increasing productive and positive behaviour.

Act Quickly 

Many leaders I have worked with report that having to have problem behaviour discussions or to let an employee go is a very difficult decision to act on and thus delay taking this step. My own experience in this situation means I can relate to that, yet that same experience reminds me that there is a significant cost that grows exponentially, to delaying taking action. Ask yourself what the cost of the situation continuing is to the business, to the employee, to other employees, to customers and to yourself. Delaying acting on such situations results in having to deal with a much bigger and messier problem later on. Accept that acting on such a decision will always be difficult and remind yourself of the cost of not acting on it.

Use Emotional Self-Awareness

The MHS EQ-i 2.0 defines emotional self-awareness in this way: includes recognizing and understanding one’s own emotions. This includes the ability to differentiate between subtleties in one’s own emotions while understanding the cause of these emotions and the impact they have on one’s own thoughts and actions and those of others.

Leaders need to pay attention to their own emotional state. Be aware of your own triggers and be aware of a pattern of behaviour with the person complaining. When a negative pattern has already been established the leader must first communicate the change-that discussions going forward must be solution focussed and stay on track.

Develop Emotional Intelligence

It is counter-productive to simply utilize managerial skills without well-developed emotional intelligence skills. Cognitive, social and emotional intelligence skill development are all necessary components of effective leadership. The ability to see any workplace situation through the perspective of others and to step outside ones own reactions aids in reaching better solutions. Learning to respond [objective, solution focussed] to situations rather than reacting [firefighting] allows leaders to create positive and productive workplace environments. Removing negativity and problem focussed criticism reduces stress and negativity creep.

Make Culture Count

Strong, sustainable and productive organizations deliberately create a culture that is defined by a clear set of values. Values drive decisions, create organizational culture and reduce uncertainty. Leaders must deal with a negative employee quickly or other employees may view them as condoning bad behaviour or as a lack of respect for the employees who find themselves subjected to this behaviour. How employees and customers view the business is significantly influenced by the behaviours that are condoned, supported or allowed to continue unchecked. To retain the culture that created and maintains the success of the organization dealing in a timely and effective manner with negative behaviour is critical. A cohesive understanding of the values and culture throughout the organization, regardless of size, also helps in times of change, especially during growth periods, to reduce uncertainty. If you are experiencing negativity, angry outbursts and hyper-criticism in your organization, changing this will not happen overnight. Patience, commitment and determination are required to shift the behaviour to a more positive approach which also means the leader needs to keep their own emotional well-being intact.


Coaching And The Digital Era

Today’s post may seem a little off topic for an executive coaching blog entry. I believe it is on topic and if you join me on this little journey over this and the next two blog posts that will become clear.

I Connect The Dots

One of the things I do to improve my own practice and skills is a combination of participating in formal and informal learning opportunities that are directly related to my work or that add awareness that helps me better relate to my clients challenges. A significant challenge for anyone in their own business is bringing in new clients, retaining existing clients through new offerings and always providing the best product or service you can. Most of my learning is rightfully focused on skills that will directly benefit my clients. Part of this is observing trends especially those that offer a fishbowl of human behaviour.

Technology, Social, Sell

With the rise of social media/networks have come an unprecedented call to engage in marketing, branding, selling and ‘engaging’ to the degree that ones real business starts to feel like it takes second place to the call of the media glare. It is easy to see how we can get caught up in it as many of us have expertise in areas that are not about marketing at all. So we are wide-eyed, open to suggestion and seeking the “ten easy steps to marketing your business” advice that proliferates on the Internet and is one of the predominant themes of “Meet Up” events purported to be about networking.

Things That Resonate

Today I read a blog post that really resonated for me as Dr. Giurleo so clearly comments on several things I have observed over the past 18 months as I added ‘marketing’ and ‘branding’ to my things that intrigue me list.

I also volunteer for the Global Leadership Team at The Denovati Group, which offers a wide range of resources to understand the Digital Era, of which ‘social media’ is just one aspect. Participating here is one way I keep ahead of the curve on what all this technology based change means to us both individually and organizationally. It also offers something we need more of, thoughtful, respectful, open minded offerings of how our world is changing.

These Things Are Not The Same or Are They?

Coaching executives, emerging leaders, and professionals seeking to gain excellence in their workplace interactions means that an effective coach needs to be aware of how to connect the dots that are often not obvious to others. If I, as a coach can help my clients benefit from being better able to see what is ahead, the challenges and the opportunities, they will be ahead of the curve in their ability to lead in their organization or profession.

And the rise of the Digital Era, which is largely a result of the creation of ‘social’ based technologies, is not a trend for right now, but a signal of what is ahead.

When seeking a coach, in addition to finding someone you trust with your challenges, you also want to consider if they will help you find your own ‘connecting the future dots’ ability.

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