Defining the issue will help in resolving conflict

By figuring out if the issue is related to character, competency or chemistry, you will find it easier to resolve the issue.

Defining the issue will help in resolving conflict

Michigan State University Extension works with volunteers, councils and committees and develops the leadership and citizenship skills of those involved in the process. However, people don’t always get along, and when disputes come along we are asked to help sort out the issues and diffuse the tension. In these situations, remember to stay calm and separate the issues from the people. People and relationships are important and should be put before the issues. We care about people and we work to resolve issues.

One way to demonstrate this commitment to people is to practice honest, open communication with them. When you have an issue, attempt to have a conversation instead of sending an email. That may not always not be possible, but when it is, take the time. Listening to understand will yield results.

Before you can address the issue and solve it, you need to define the problem. Begin by determining if it is related to character, competency or chemistry.

  • Character. Consider if they are demonstrating poor judgement, have conflicting work ethics or struggle with differences in their character attributes (trustworthiness, respect, caring, citizenship, fairness and responsibility).
  • Competency. Do they have the right knowledge and skills for the role or position?
  • Chemistry. Is this just not the right fit for the person? They may have skills and a great work ethic, but the dynamics of the project are just not the best fit or it may not be right time for the project.

Once you have figured out what the problem is and can define it, you can work to address it. If it is character related, accept that you will probably not be able to resolve it quickly. The character of an individual does not change overnight nor would we want it to. Character is how we define ourselves; if a person’s character changed on a dime, imagine how confusing it would be to work with one another. Character can and does change, but it occurs over time.

Competency issues can be addressed through training. What skills or knowledge would help the individual or group be most successful? Is this training realistic, can it happen in a timely manner and would the participants be willing to be part of the training?

Is the chemistry just off and are the wrong players on the team? Sometimes we have great people gathered together, but together they are not great. Great individuals don’t always make great teammates. The struggle for power, praise, credit and varying agendas can all come into play and breed trouble. If this is happening, it can be time to redirect some of those individuals to different, new or solo projects.

By considering the type of issue, you will find it easier to have the conversations and work to resolution. Preserving relationships and caring doesn’t mean allowing volunteers or committee members to always get their way; it means working together to help the organization achieve the goals it has set.

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