"When conflict arises at work, be prepared to solve the problem with GIN." ~Karen Keller, Ph.D.
My guess is that you love being an executive. When you reach a level in your company where you feel like you’re making a difference and can effect change and your ideas are actually listened to, there’s almost nothing as rewarding. There’s one part of being in a position of power that can be a real drag, though and that’s conflict resolution. Whether you’re working with employees that report directly to you or subcontractors that you’re responsible for handling, you’ve got to solve problems and make sure everyone is happy.
When these situations arise, I use a handy little tool I like to call GIN. GIN can help you solve problems fairly quickly, often over the span of a lunch break or a business dinner. Best of all, this kind of GIN doesn’t come in a bottle, it’s all up in your head. GIN is an acronym for the three parts involved in conflict resolution: Gather, Inform, Negotiate.
The first part of any mediation or conflict resolution is to gather information from the parties involved. Here are some important aspects to gathering information:
- Active Listening: Don’t check out when listening to the other party’s grievances. Listen to what they have to say, validate it and confirm that you’re listening to what they have to say. You would be amazed at how much you can calm someone simply by listening.
- Probe: Ask questions, but ask open ended questions? Try not to ask questions that are leading them somewhere or are closed questions that only need yes or no answers. You want to draw out as much information as you can from this person.
- Silence: This is so important and can actually be difficult for some people. Nodding and small vocal affirmations that you’re listening are good, but don’t interrupt someone when they are trying to explain what the problem is. It will only cause them to shut down.
- Review: Once they are done, summarize what you’ve understood this person’s conflict is. Use the phrases “So, to summarize…” or “If I understand correctly…” follow this with a question that allows the person to confirm or correct your understanding.
Now it’s your turn to tell your side of the story. Don’t think of it as defending yourself, because that will likely turn this into another conflict. It’s important to think of this as spreading information.
- Explain the problem from your perspective.
- Keep it short.
- Stick to “just the facts.”
- Address each issue individually, don’t lump them all together.
Now that you’ve both talked freely about both sides of the story, it’s time to come to an agreement. If negotiate seems like too harsh of a word for you, try using the word compromise instead. I like to think of this as the final part of a feedback loop. You want to find a solution that makes everyone happy.
- Ask for suggestions from the other party.
- Make sure all parties involved are in agreement.
- Focus on specific behaviors, goals and outcomes.
- Sum up the resolution. If possible, try and get it all down in writing so things are as clear as possible.
- Follow up! Make sure everyone sticks to their part of the deal, including yourself.
I bet you never thought you’d see the day when GIN could solve problems in the office rather than cause it!
How do you handle conflict in the office? Please share with us what works for you!
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"The FIRST requirement for being an influential person is knowing yourself." ~ Dr. Karen Keller