Conflict, by nature, involves emotions. The hardest part of dealing with conflict for a COO is untangling the emotions from the actual issue at hand. Often the way people feel about the problem is more important than the problem itself. Emotions can make much bigger deals of things than intended.
That said, you must deal with the emotional side of conflicts if you want to truly resolve them and, as a COO, you do. You need to get everyone’s concerns on the table and discuss them in a rational way.
As Second in Command, a COO needs to hold themself as responsible as the CEO does for setting the tone in resolving a conflict. These four phrases can really help you communicate effectively when trying to resolve that conflict.
The phrase “When you…” allows you to describe exactly what the person did that you didn’t like, or what didn’t follow your company’s system, values, and so on, in a respectful and open manner. It’s very important for a COO to be upfront about these issues. Just make sure what follows “When you…” isn’t disrespectful.
“Clearly specify what you are concerned about, even if it takes some time to isolate the primary issue at hand. Also, avoid attacking the other person or making accusations, which will only lead to distrust and defensiveness.” – Our Everyday Life
Be careful that you don’t criticize the person or their actions. Remember to be descriptive, not evaluative.
Everyone knows that emotions are involved, so be upfront about them. As a COO, you need to take the lead and set an example.
“A mediator might encourage empathy by asking employees in conflict to each describe how the other might be feeling and thinking, and how the situation might look to the other party.” – The Balance Careers
Tell the person how their actions make you feel, or as a mediator, allow each side to put their feelings out into the open. For example, “I feel upset, frustrated, angry.” Everyone has to dig deep and describe those feelings. If everyone can truly get their emotions out, then they’ll all have no problem addressing the problem itself.
As COO, you have to make sure the conflicting parties describe what they need the other to do in the future so that this same conflict doesn’t occur again. If you’re the one with the problem, you have to say what you need while also actively listening to what the other side needs as well.
“”I” statements are a keystone of conflict resolution. By framing your thoughts around yourself, you avoid placing blame or focus on emotions and reactions, which helps stick to the facts and solutions to an issue.” – The Digital Project Manager
By focusing on the need, you’ve addressed your feelings and the person realizes you’re getting to the center of the issue and focusing on resolving the problem.
“How do you feel?”
One of the most important abilities in conflict resolution, be it as an employee or as a COO, is the ability to listen.
“There are many important soft skills in business like empathy, creative thinking, and emotional awareness, but listening always comes out on top.” – COO Alliance
Ask the other person to share their thoughts and feelings. They likely have their own version of the facts that need to be heard and validated before the conflict can be resolved.
Allowing everyone to be articulate, pulling all the feelings out, and taking the lead to do so, is the best and only way to resolve conflicts.
If you have questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. Please send an email, and my team will get in touch with you!
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2016 and had been edited for accuracy and comprehensiveness.