In any industry, office or relationship, conflict is inevitable. Construction is no different – we have colleagues in the field, coworkers in the office, vendors, customers and more who we work with on a daily basis in order to get our work done. And of course, sometimes conflicts arise. So how do we handle them?
Before we jump into our conflict resolution tips, let’s start by reframing how we think of conflict. Instead of picturing two sides in opposition, battling it out, think about conflict in a less confrontational way: as multiple people or groups of people dealing with each other and their differing interests.
Most of the time, resolving conflict is really just about understanding where the other side is coming from and what their perspective is. Once you take the time to learn what others are thinking, you’ll often find that you’re not actually that far apart. Sure, there are occasions when there is real separation between two parties, but often, it’s not even really about solving conflict. Instead, it’s about getting information – putting the needs and goals of both parties on the table so you can find common ground to move forward.
Here are three tips we return to again and again to keep ourselves in this problem-solving mindset and to work through conflicts:
1. Always stay in contact with the other side
Communication is integral to successful conflict resolution. Often, we fill in the gaps of our knowledge with assumptions that could be far from the actual truth. By getting all the facts, you reduce the opportunity for drama and can focus on the real issues at play.
Staying honest throughout this communication is important. Two parties likely won’t be able to provide 100% what the other side wants, so being honest about that up front and clear about what can be delivered is key. Together, both sides should plan, set goals and modify as needed, communicating any changes as they go to prevent further conflict.
2. Bring additional people into the conversation
When two people are in conflict, it can help to bring in another perspective. For example, if people from two offices are disagreeing, perhaps someone in the field can bring information to the conversation that the two parties may not be aware of. Often, those with boots on the ground can see the implications of what’s being discussed and provide new ideas. When all stakeholders in a project have the opportunity to chime in, it can lead to creative solutions.
3. Continue to follow up
Once an initial plan for moving forward is in place, all parties must stay in contact to avoid further issues. Things are likely to change (especially in construction!), so everyone needs to keep that in mind and communicate any time change occurs. Working the plan together and constantly monitoring and maintaining the process put in place can keep things moving along smoothly. With the ability to communicate through texts, phone calls, emails, face-to-face meetings and progress reports, lack of communication cannot be an excuse for conflict anymore.
So, the next time conflict arises, skip past the drama and accusations – get in the room with the other party and work through these tips to get back on track. In the long run, everyone will be happier and more successful, which is what we all want!