I spoke to the Project Management SIG this morning and we talked about handling conflict when managing people from all over the world with different values, expectations, and styles.
The group reminded me that some of the diversity is also about age groups and the way they relate to work and to authority.
We talked about the importance of understanding how to interact with people from low-context cultures (just buy my product) vs. high-context cultures (I needf to get to know you before I even smile at you, let alone do business with you.)
My important messages regarding resolving conflict were:
1: Take the griping and grumbling seriously before it escalates. We have the tendency to ignore things hoping they will either go away or resolve by themselves. They don’t. We need to intervene.
2: Don’t believe the first person you hear. All the research suggests that we believe the first person who tells us something. You need to remain neutral.
3: Don’t play Solomon. Don’t try to adjudicate the issues. Wherever possible bring the people together and try to mediate their dispute. Sometimes you have to start with conciliation – which is the process of going back and forth talking with them separately to calm things down before you can bring them together. Mediation is the process of facilitating their own resolutions and solutions.
4: Most conflict stems from misunderstanding – not malice – and with the proper facilitation can be resolved.