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How to De-Escalate Workplace Conflict: Tips from an Expert

Category: The Growth Lab / 3 minutes to read
Author: Stephanie Heitman
Published: September 24th

How to De-Escalate Workplace Conflict: Tips from an Expert

Category: The Growth Lab / 3 minutes to read
Author: Stephanie Heitman
Published: September 24th

Conflict is a natural part of life, especially when you’re working with people and factoring in different viewpoints, personalities, priorities, and more. But, conflict can become a problem at work when you don’t know how to handle it or de-escalate it.

Dr. Liane Davey, an author, speaker, and teamwork doctor, knows all about conflict. She advises businesses on executive team effectiveness and has written two books about working collaboratively in the workplace: You First: Inspire Your Team to Grow Up, Get Along, and Get Stuff Done and The Good Fight: Use Productive Conflict to Get Your Team and Organization Back on Track.

Liane embraces conflict and tension, but knows the havoc it can wreak when it gets out of control. So, she has a process for de-escalating that conflict to get your team back to a good place. 

Before putting this process in place in your workplace, Liane suggests that leaders let their teams know that conflict is “normal, natural, and healthy.” Healthy teams have tension. This sets the stage for the below process to happen effectively because people aren’t afraid of a little conflict.

Listen to her on The Growth Lab Show:

Now, here are her step-by-step instructions for de-escalating workplace conflict.

Step 1: Validate their Idea

When you feel like someone is starting to escalate conflict and it might turn into a fight, whether it’s directed to you or someone else on your team, Liane says the first step is to validate their idea. This is as simple as repeating what they said back to them as a question. 

Example: They want to put an ad in the paper, and they’re getting upset that no one is seeing their side. You would say, “ So you want to put an ad in the paper?” This gets them back on track.

Step 2: Ask a Question

Next, you want to try to understand where they’re coming from. Build off their original idea or the initial thing they said. Obviously, your tone here is key. You want to remain calm and neutral so they see that you’re not asking them this question to come at them but to really get a window into their head.

Example: You would say something like, “What makes you suggest that paper?” This gives them an opportunity to put their feelings into words and get their thoughts out. Quote about workplace conflict and leadership from Dr. Liane Davey - LOCALiQ

Step 3: Say Their Truth

You don’t have to agree with what they’re saying, but summarize what they’re saying and why. 
Example: You would say something like, “You’re focused on the paper because you think that’s where our demographic is, so that’s why you’re thinking about it?” When they hear their truth out of your mouth, you can start to problem solve.

This should result in a pivot from a full-blown conflict to a conversation.

As Liane says, the purpose of teamwork is conflict. Without healthy conflict, opposing viewpoints, and the willingness to be open with your team, it's nearly impossible to push your company forward and grow. Get more tips from Liane on The Growth Lab Show. And make sure you're following LOCALiQ on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for more tips, tricks, and insights from leaders like Liane.

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