Disagreements are a natural result when people with differing expertise and points of view come together to solve problems. When the stakes are high, tempers may flare, leading to a heated or difficult moment.
While it is impossible to predict what may trigger a tense moment, some situations that may make it more likely include:
- Personality conflicts
- Shock, surprise, or embarrassment
- Ongoing or persistent stress
- Mistakes or errors
- Fear of change
- Uncertainty about the future
As a manager, it is important to have the ability to cool heated moments and ease your team back to a state of normalcy. Try these tips for defusing tension and helping your team to settle down:
- Acknowledge the tension. Don’t avoid the elephant in the room. A simple acknowledgment, such as saying “I can see that there are a lot of strong feelings about this topic,” will let your team know that you are aware of the tension.
- Check your own emotions. While responding to anger in kind is a normal human reaction, it rarely improves the situation. If necessary, take a step back and regroup before wading into the fray. Remember, the first person you manage is yourself.
- Project calm. During tense moments, people will look to you to determine how they should react. If you are visibly defensive or seem to be taking a side, others will take that as their cue to pick sides as well.
- Engage in pattern interruption. By remaining silent in the face of anger or staying calm when others are upset, you disrupt their expectations and help them recalibrate their behavior.
- Lighten the mood. A well-timed joke may ease tensions and help your team focus on the task at hand. Jokes about intense subjects, such as situations that could impact your team’s future employment, are ill-advised.
- Ask for clarification. Did the moment become heated due to a misunderstanding? Ask team members to explain and provide needed context.
- Listen. People from different disciplines may have varying perspectives regarding the primary concern in a given situation. Give each person time to explain their point of view. If necessary, remind your team of the importance of respectful language and behavior. (If individual employees have engaged in inappropriate behavior, address it privately.)
- Reframe the situation. Try a dose of realistic optimism that both acknowledges frustrations and recognizes the potential advantages of an alternative approach. Steer the conversation toward a solution-focused outcome.
- Validate other points of view. Sometimes, the likely approach will be obvious early in the process. However, it is important to recognize other perspectives and their value to the discussion. Making sure your entire team feels heard may decrease the potential for hard feelings that could boil over in the future.
- Gather information. When questions must be answered before a decision can be reached, it may be best to schedule another meeting for a later date. List what items will need to be addressed prior to the next meeting and assign responsibility for gathering the needed information.
- Change the subject. When the discussion doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, consider switching to a different topic. This may be as simple as saying, “Let’s move on to the next item on the agenda.”
- Take a break. If you are addressing an urgent concern, consider taking a short break before returning to the discussion. If there is time to “sleep on it,” consider scheduling another meeting for the next day so that people have time to cool off and think through their responses.
A tense moment within your team may be a catalyst for needed changes. Look for ways to turn these difficult moments into opportunities for growth.
Source: Life Advantages, LLC