Manage conflict and solve problems
The key to managing conflict and solving problems is having a mindset that these are positive challenges that provide opportunities to learn and improve.
Farm teams that have ways of handling conflict constructively develop their resilience and capacity to adapt to changing circumstances. Being able to discuss issues openly, and learning to negotiate, compromise and develop alternatives enables teams to work through problems.
Act on other things that have been covered in this module such as:
- taking time to understand the different personality and working styles in the team;
- adapting leadership style to suit the situation;
- having clearly defined roles and responsibilities;
- effectively communicating within the team;
- taking time to reinforce team values at meetings.
Define conflicts and problems in terms of needs, not solutions. Whilst individuals often disagree about the right solution they usually agree on the need – and can move onto a discussion and consideration of issues and options.
Agree to the procedure for working through the conflict (such as how contentious issues will be explored, the use of data, and how decisions will be made).
Principles that help people manage conflict
- Have a discussion to bring the issue into the open by talking about the issue, not the person and helping the individuals to define the problem in specific terms.
- Develop an understanding of what is happening and why before attempting a repair. Ensure that each person listens to the other. It is possible to respect others’ points of view without agreeing with them.
- Deal with the facts but also acknowledge emotions and don’t be critical of them or dismiss them (by telling the other person not to worry, or starting sentences with “you should have…”, or jumping straight into problem solving).
- Stay cool, especially when dealing with people who felt they’ve been dealt an injustice. Most people will calm down if you give them time.
- Summarise the situation frequently and get confirmation that you understand what the other person thinks and feels.
- Establish joint commitment to a path forward and help identify areas of agreement.
- Review the progress and plan ways of following through that are likely to be effective.
Go face-to-face with the problem
One way of resolving issues in the workplace is to put managers face-to-face with the problem – e.g. if milkers have an issue with the conditions, get the manager to milk cows.
Seek help to solve the problem
Seek help from a third party if you are unable to solve the problem cooperatively.
Recurring conflict can harm working relationships and usually happens when the root cause has not been identified or dealt with