25 June 2024, 16:37
By Jean Gamester Jun 27, 2016

How to manage opposing views in the workplace

The Brexit result has revealed a huge split in how people in Britain feel about Europe – and therefore there is bound to be a few heated discussions in workplaces, kitchens and pubs across the UK. So how can one turn conflict, which seems like a bad thing, into a good thing? Jean Gamester of Semaphora shares her tips on creative conflict – whether it’s about Brexit or other challenges at work or at home …

Bring it out in the open
Unaddressed conflict can eat away at a relationship and unresolved issues can dissolve progress. The first step to healthy conflict is to actually have the conflict! Of course this isn’t about losing all self control and laying waste to those that annoy you. But if an issue is serious enough, I recommend heading onto it face on. We need to step out and talk together about what is going on.

More in common
Focus on the issues, not the person. If you get personal, then it is very hard to come back and collaborate – you are building a wall between you. Believe that you have 'more in common' and find that thing and work to bring that common interest to life.

Be curious about what’s happening to others
One of the most common mistakes in conflict is to only explore our own position. The other person has a perspective, a history, a reason for their view and our job is to understand that. If we are curious and we ask questions about why they feel as they feel, we have the foundations for agreement.

Be humble about what’s happening to ourselves
We all have our triggers, the things that we react to that have nothing to do with the conversation at hand. What are your triggers that you bring to the conversation? Is it fair to the other person to react to those triggers even though it has nothing to do with them or the situation?

Respect in the ring
When debating the issues, make sure that all of the opinions are aired - and heard. Acknowledge that there is something good about getting out there and working out what is happening - that is a first step to getting a great solution. You are in a relationship of a sort – so if someone is feeling something, the relationship is feeling that too. Listen to what is going on for both of you, and be open to the possibility (however vague) that we ourselves may not be perfect!

Get into collaboration mode
The key to creative conflict is to optimise two seemingly competing ideas. Firstly, the assertive pursuit of an outcome that will address your concerns and reach your goals and secondly, the desire to co-operate so that the concerns and goals of the other person are met too. The chances are, there are things that unite both parties - find those things, build on them and help each other to achieve them.

Get on board
When you come to a conclusion, a consensus, stick with it. No matter what happens, give the agreed way forward your full support, otherwise it might fail just because you didn’t. Britain voted for Brexit - now we have to make it work whether we voted for it or not.

"Britain voted for Brexit - now we have to make it work whether we voted for it or not"

Keeping conflict creative
Let’s have the courage to bring conflict out in the open. Once it’s out there be humble, curious and focused on common interest. Let’s deal with the issues and have a deep respect for those on the other side. Then collaborate to get consensus, and commit to the plan. If we apply all of our creativity to the conflict, who knows what we might achieve!

Jean Gamester is founder of Semaphora, an organisation which helps companies get the best from their people through leadership, communication and change management.

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