The ability to manage conflicts is one of a leader’s greatest challenges. Many teams and entire organizations struggle with the different/conflicting views about how things should run and how change should be implemented. It is crucial for a leader to possess the ability to manage people’s differences in a way that reduces their destructive energy while channeling their constructive energy.
There are two things that a leader can do to ensure this happens (Heifetz & Linsky, 2002):
- Create a safe place to allow for the conflicts to come up.
- As the conflict is boiling, make certain that you, the leader, control that it doesn’t boil over.
In one company, middle managers were unhappy with their leader because they felt restricted about not being able to run their departments in a manner that they believe is best. When the managers raised their concerns, the leader would often respond with minimizing statements or just outright dismiss the concerns as insignificant.
It’s easy to see that the leader’s tendency to minimize and discount concerns created a growing level discontentment that eventually led to the exit of one of the managers.
In “The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave (2005),” Leigh Branham outlined the reasons why employees often head for the exit door:
- Reason #1: The Job or Workplace Was Not as Expected
- Reason #2: The Mismatch Between Job and Person
- Reason #3: Too Little Coaching and Feedback
- Reason #4: Too Few Growth and Advancement Opportunities
- Reason #5: Feeling Devalued And Unrecognized
- Reason #6: Stress From Overwork and Work-Life Imbalance
- Reason #7: Loss of Trust and Confidence in Senior Leaders
There are two distinct periods when someone considers quitting. The first period is the time between the first thoughts of leaving and the later decision to leave. The second period in which the employee considers leaving is the time between the decision to leave and actually leaving.
For this middle manager, the two biggest reasons were: (1) too few growth and advancement opportunities (reason #4), and (2) feeling devalued and unrecognized (reason #5). The manager had devoted a considerable amount of time and energy into developing his expertise and competence, only to discover that there was not an opportunity for him to advance. Furthermore, when the manager brought up his concerns or offered suggestions or ideas for improvements, he never felt “heard.”
Unfortunately for the company, when an opportunity came, the manager happily jumped ship and accepted a position where his skills and work ethics were appreciated.
There are three tips that the leader could have followed to avoid losing this valuable manager:
- Inspire confidence in a clear vision, a workable plan and the competence to achieve it.
- Back up words with actions.
- Have trust and confidence in your workforce.
Branham, L. (2005). The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave. Broadway, NY: AMACOM.
Heifetz, R., & Linsky, M. (2002). A survival guide for leaders. Harvard Business Review, 80(6), 65-72.