Those in leadership positions deal with a myriad of challenges daily, but perhaps none more challenging than addressing conflict among team members. As a leader, you’re expected to remain neutral and handle the disagreement responsibly, but when emotions are running high, it can be challenging to set things right. Here are a few tips for effectively and professionally handling team conflict. 

The first step in dealing with conflicts among team members is acknowledging that there will be conflicts. Any time you have individuals of varying backgrounds and experiences working together, there are bound to be issues that come up from time to time. Simply ignoring them, or worse yet, blowing them out of proportion, is unhelpful. 

Start by asking questions to accurately identify the issue. Once the affected parties are calm and able to discuss the situation, it’s essential to hear all sides of the disagreement. Some conflicts arise from differences of opinion, but others are due to miscommunication or misunderstanding. Helping all sides to clarify their position or reasoning may help to resolve these types of situations. Whenever possible, make compromise a goal. 

Recognize boundaries and support others in maintaining healthy boundaries. Having an understanding of how each of your team members react to conflict can help you to establish measures to prevent further conflicts from occurring. Respect the differences among your team members and encourage them to do the same. As a leader, you can help your team members identify behaviors that tend to cross others’ boundaries triggering conflict. Spending time observing and coaching teammates can allow you to reinforce expectations for behavior and performance. 

Create a goal for resolving the conflict and layout strategies to help achieve that goal. Leaders need to act decisively to reduce or neutralize the conflict as soon as possible. Allowing tensions to fester can worsen the situation. Instead, as a leader, address the issue head-on. Realize that any decision made is likely to have some detractors – you can’t always make everyone happy. As a leader, you must lead not only in the good times but also in times of adversity. Effectively and efficiently steering your team members through conflict is a test of your leadership capabilities and will earn you more respect in the long run if handled well.