Understand these 5 stages of conflict to avoid it

Leaders, like referees, must be fair, but firm | practice (split each time) | Understand these 5 stages of conflict to avoid it
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May 7, 2024
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Leading the Way
Leaders, like referees, must be fair, but firm
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Some competition within teams can be healthy, writes Ed Batista, who encourages leaders to be "referees" judging whether behavior crosses a line, and if it does, that team member can be penalized in some way, taken out of the "game" for a time or cut from the team. "Just as a ref in a sporting contest must ensure that competitive behavior doesn't impede fair play, a leader in this situation must assess the costs and benefits of internal competition and determine how to respond when conflicts occur," Batista notes.
Full Story: Ed Batista Executive Coaching (5/5) 
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Put it into practice: As a leader, it's your responsibility to promote fair play among your team members, and you have to make the call, even if others may feel you're being unfair and become upset, Batista suggests. "People need to take responsibility for their emotions, not merely view their response as a function of others' behavior."
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SmartBrief on Leadership
Understand these 5 stages of conflict to avoid it
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Conflict happens, but it's how you handle the five stages that it passes through before it escalates into a blowup that will help you be a better leader, writes consultant, speaker and author Marlene Chism. Feeling an inner disturbance is the first stage, followed by justifying someone's behavior, seeing them as an adversary, finding proof of that assumption and finally aggression toward them. If you can recognize where you are in those stages, you're more likely to defuse the situation, Chism notes.
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Put it into practice: When you find yourself in that first stage of conflict -- feeling disturbed by a situation -- Chism offers one question to ask, especially if you find yourself smiling even if you're angry. "'Am I pretending things are OK when they aren't?' That's a good sign that you're mismanaging conflict without even knowing it."
Read more from Marlene Chism on SmartBrief on Leadership
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Employees would look forward to reviews of their performance if leaders trained managers to make them less about criticism and more about how the team member can grow within the organization by offering actionable feedback and ongoing support afterward, says Kerry O'Grady, director of teaching excellence at the Columbia Business School. "These need to be two-way, well-thought-out conversations. Without the dialogue, these are just reports of opinion and perception," O'Grady notes.
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Put it into practice: The most powerful reviews are those that give team members specific direction in how their work "figures into the company's mission and values," O'Grady notes. "I've seen way too many untrained managers give feedback that's related more to personal preferences and less about the person's job within the organization."
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How do you deal with employees who are ungrateful for opportunities they're given?
I don't say anything and hope they figure it out.
 13.88%
I go out of my way to highlight the opportunities they've been afforded.
 37.80%
I offer a gentle prod that they're coming across as ungrateful.
 19.62%
I share direct feedback that they're behaving ungratefully and need to change.
 12.44%
I stop providing them opportunities since they're not grateful for them.
 16.26%
Be grateful or hear about it (and maybe lose opportunities). Leaders should create opportunities for team members to grow and develop. If you're one of those team members who has been afforded those opportunities, be sure to express your gratitude to your leaders. They're taking a risk and putting effort into you to create those opportunities for you. The least you could do is express some gratitude for those chances to grow, excel and advance.

Clearly there's a large group of leaders who are willing to provide feedback if you're being ungrateful and a large portion of them will be unwilling to provide future opportunities. A simple "thank you" can go a long way in helping you advance your career.

-- Mike Figliuolo is managing director of thoughtLEADERS, which includes TITAN -- the firm's e-learning platform. Previously, he worked at McKinsey & Co., Capital One and Scotts Miracle-Gro. He is a West Point graduate and author of three leadership books: "One Piece of Paper," "Lead Inside the Box" and "The Elegant Pitch."
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In Their Own Words
If gender were removed from the leadership equation, female leaders would outnumber men because they display more emotional intelligence and empathy, but many women become leaders by outdoing men in masculine traits, which can lead to lousy leadership no matter the gender, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, author of "Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?: (And How to Fix It)." "The point is not to have more biological women in charge but to have better leaders in charge. And if we don't understand that we should optimize for a more feminine, empathetic, or competent style, whether it's displayed by women or men, we run into problems," says Chamorro-Premuzic.
Full Story: McKinsey (5/1) 
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Daily Diversion
Eat your veggies! But, what if they're an illusion?
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What are carrots, beets, lettuce and spinach? If you said vegetables, you'd be wrong -- at least according to botanists who classify anything that contains a seed or seeds as a fruit. According to horticulture, though, vegetables are herbaceous plants that are eaten either cooked or raw as part of a meal. It was a 19th-century US Supreme Court ruling that sorted out what's legally a vegetable or a fruit, which is how a tomato became a fruit.
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SmartBreak: Question of the Day
Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering was founded in 1946 and made its mark building transistors for Bell Labs. TTE soon after changed its name to what?
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About The Editor
Candace Chellew
Candace Chellew
Chellew

Marlene Chism's five hidden stages of conflict hit home for me today. There have been so many times when I find myself at this first stage of feeling an inner disturbance. I may notice a subtle rudeness or disregard for me or my contribution to a project. I may laugh it off or think I'm just imagining things.

Then, it happens again; only this time, I try to justify the behavior. Maybe they didn't hear me. Perhaps they're having a bad day. Whatever, no worries.

They keep doing it, so now I'm getting mad. This person is now obviously an enemy, someone to watch out for. I look around the office for proof of this. "See! They treat others this way, too. They are bad!"

Finally, one day, I blow up in a meeting at this person, accusing them of treating me -- and others -- poorly. As Chism says, I have matched their negative energy.

With Chism's map, we can avoid this ending point of aggression by recognizing which stage we're in at the moment. Think of someone at work -- or even at home or other gatherings -- that tweaks you somehow. Are you annoyed with them right now? Are you justifying their behavior, or are you seeing them as an enemy and looking for proof all around you? If so, the next step will be unpleasant for everyone.

If you can identify yourself in an early stage, now is the time to speak up, Chism says. "Ask for what you want. Set appropriate boundaries. Stop pretending lousy behavior is OK with you. Stop seeing conflict as a problem but as opposing drives, desires and demands. Conflict can be productive when we learn to speak up faster and let go of seeing the other person as our adversary."

How have you dealt with conflict in your workplace? Chism's map may be the tool you need to keep from getting lost in a maze of anger and frustration.

If this newsletter helps you, please tell your colleagues, friends or anyone who can benefit. Forward them this email, or send this link.

What topics do you see in your daily work that I should know about? Do you have praise? Criticism? Drop me a note. And don't forget to send me photos of your pets, your office and where you spend your time off.
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I try to remember we can always make a difference no matter how difficult things are. There's no such thing as small. ... Big or small, it's all big.
Helen Zia,
writer, journalist, activist
May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month
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