To handle workplace conflicts as part of your leadership role comprises a whole range of options for action. Empowering your team members to work out their conflicts themselves is one of them.
It needs reflection and an assessment of the situation. Points to assess are
- ✅ the personal and social skills of the involved employees
- ✅ their experience in settling conflicts
- ✅ the nature of the conflict
- ✅ your position as the leader vis-à-vis the conflict at hand.
The more skilled and experienced the team members are in solving their own conflicts, the “easier” this part of the assessment. The less skilled or experienced they the more you will be involved in the process – preparing and perhaps guiding them in the process, where necessary.
Further points to consider:
- Are you involved in the conflict – in any way? (If so that would be a contraindication to delegating the settlement to your team members.)
- Are you willing to accept the solution the affected parties come up with?
- What will you do if the parties do not solve their conflict?
- What if the result is that the solution How will you react if it turns out that changes beyond their control (e.g. structural changes) are needed to solve the conflict? needed lies beyond their powers? (for instance: structural changes)?
Empowerment needs a clear frame, although this might sound somewhat contradictory.
- 📌 A timeframe
- 📌 Communication about the points 2-4 above
- 📌 An understanding how the settlement process will be terminated and followed up (e.g. in what way will you be informed about the solution and possible steps to be taken.)
Empowerment can reduce the time you as a leader have to invest in conflict settlement. But it will not eliminate your responsibility. Empowerment is not “out of sight, out of mind”. It is a learning journey for you and your team. It will strengthen the skills of your staff and will build up conflict resilience.