9 Steps for Managing Conflict During Meetings

handshakeIt's not unusual for conflicts to arise during a meeting. Many groups go through the phases of forming, storming, "norming," and performing. It could be conflict during a planning or logistics meeting for your own team or during the course of a meeting for clients. Regardless of the context, the steps you take will determine whether or not the conflict will be effectively managed and resolved.

Here are 9 steps that will help.

  1. Pause. A short time out will help all parties re-focus calm down and come back to the situation with a cooler head.
  2. Give the group thinking time to identify their concerns and briefly write down what is of concern, the desired outcome and proposed solutions. 
  3. Agree on a set of norms for conflict solution such as one person speaks at a time, no name calling, and no profanity.
  4. Give all individuals or, for large groups, all stakeholders, an opportunity to share what they have written down.
  5. Before moving on to the next person, get someone to paraphrase the concerns and proposed solutions that have just been shared. Provide an opportunity for questions to clarify
  6. Once all perspectives have been shared, open the floor for discussion.

    Remember to follow the steps I have previously outlined for ensuring balanced participation.
  7. Identify the basic facts and concerns on which everyone can agree.
  8. Identify the proposed solutions that are agreeable to all parties.
  9. For the areas, where there is still disagreement, form a subgroup to go away and study the issues in more depth and come back with proposed solutions. These tools will help with branstorming and decision-making.

If meetings often get out of hand and conflict becomes heated, it may be important to use a more formal meeting process such as Robert's Rules of Order for a while until the "storming" is over.

Usually, resolving conflict involves compromise. Aim for consensus and using voting as a last resort. It is more effective to come to an agreement about an approach that all parties can live with.

For more tips to help groups through periods of conflict, also read Setting Group Norms for Meetings, Influence Skills for Event Planners Part 2, and 12 Tips to Get Your Meeting Back on Track.

Photo Credit: Flazingo Photos

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