Tag Archive for: conflict

Conflict Consumes Time and Energy because it’s Urgent and Important: Here’s how to address it 1st.

You have to put strategy, innovation, leadership development, growth, and other important-but-not-urgent initiatives on the back burner, even though these matters are vital for durable success.

Chronic workplace conflict consumes your time, saps your energy, increases anxiety, and adds frustration to everyday stress.

Sometimes the conflict is overt. People get into arguments, and meetings drag on endlessly as managers bicker back and forth but never seem to get anywhere. Silos become ends in themselves — your direct reports focus on looking good in their lanes but lose sight of the bigger picture.

Bureaucratic scheming happens below the surface. People ignore new demands without several prompts. Managers slow roll changes they oppose hoping that the new initiative implodes. The more aggressive practice guerilla warfare to undermine changes or stab their colleagues in the back. The most brazen do what they want to do and tell you what you want to hear.

Conflict consumes time and energy because it’s urgent and important: you must address it. You have to put strategy, innovation, leadership development, growth, and other important-but-not-urgent initiatives on the back burner, even though these matters are vital for durable success. You try to think through them in the evenings, but you are too exhausted and tired of sacrificing your family and other priorities to the hamster wheel at work. Chopping the same wood gets harder as your ax dulls.


It does not have to be this way.

Many leaders look for solutions in the wrong places. Play areas, company picnics, and more remote work opportunities can be good ideas, but they do not reduce or resolve conflict. The reduction in cognitive diversity among businesses is a new, alarming trend. More CEOs reportedly surround themselves with people who share their political opinions and get rid of those who don’t.

Professional workplace conflict can only be about two issues: goals and ways to achieve them.

That’s it. Period.

By isolating the source of the disagreement, you can manage conflict and strengthen your team. Here are some action steps to help you do that.

1. Check commitment to the goal. Ensure you are framing the objective to include the “SO THAT” — the results or outcomes you aim to achieve. “Improve our pre-execution process SO THAT we reduce the number of expensive mistakes and improve cost forecasting.” If all parties agree on the destination, the conflict is about ways to get there.

2. Understand the options. Ways are tricky to resolve because they involve differing facts, interpretations, and prescriptions.

Ask people to put their prescriptions on the table, so everyone is clear on the options. Have them note the reasons for their position and what factors would cause them to change it. This approach improves open-mindedness.

3. Establish the relevant facts. You need to be working from a common data set, or you’ll spin your wheels.

4. What do the facts mean? Interpretations of the relevant data are the source of most “ways disagreements.” Some of the filters people use are status quo, confirmation bias, and risk aversion. Get the mental models into the open. Once the interpretations are aligned or differences are clear, then you can debate the ways forward.

5. Discuss the prescriptions. If the matter is time-sensitive, you might need to gather input and decide yourself. Otherwise, you can improve buy-in by letting your subordinates develop a solution or present you with options for decision.


If everyone agrees on the goals and ways but workplace conflict persists, you have an unprofessional personal dispute; you should fire the people responsible.

Do you want to discuss one of your workplace conflicts? Reply to this email or Schedule a call. https://callSLA.as.me/Chris


Chris’s leader archetypes have given me a framework to think about leader diversity and what natural inclinations people bring to the table. It’s also helped me communicate more effectively and develop action plans with my team and clients.
Karen Seitz, Founder and Managing Director, Fusion Partners Global

We see at least a 50% improvement in ownership and engagement, and our conversion numbers have increased by 15%, bringing more revenue into the company.
Stefan McFarland, Vice President, Aspire

Working with Chris has helped me visualize and communicate more clearly, gain the buy-in that inspires greater performance, and put my subordinates in positions to succeed.
Andy Weins, CEO, Green Up Solutions


Disputes in the Workplace: Action Steps to Encourage your Team to Work it out Without you having to Referee

Put the metaphorical “elephant in the room” on the table

Encourage employees to resolve conflicts such as this:

“Hey boss, Hannah interrupted me and was rude to me during our team meeting,” said Paul. 

 As a leader, how do you proceed?

  1. Go directly to Hannah and ask her about the situation with a reprimand in your back pocket.
  2. Ask Paul what he did to make Hannah act like that.
  3. Give Paul the resources needed to address Hannah himself to resolve the issue.

We can all agree that option #3 is the ideal solution. Yes, it takes time, patience, resources, and, oftentimes, a change in behaviors and beliefs. Having the ability to have encourage tough conversations, however, can change the entire dynamic within your Team. When your employees have the wherewithal and confidence to take these conversations into their own hands your time is freed up to do more important things.

I am trying to develop this lesson with my own kids, ages 4,6, and 8. When they run from their conflict to tell on each other my first question is always, “Did you tell your sibling how their actions made you feel?” If they answer, “no,” then I send them back to the room to have a conversation with each other first. If that doesn’t resolve the situation, then we have a group conversation about what happened and how we can fix the situation in the future. Oftentimes, the tattletale is just as guilty.

Here’s the really important part. I explicitly lay out how we treat our family members and what the Colbert family norms/expectations are. I am building a strong foundation of the expected and appropriate rules of engagement. I am giving the kids the tools needed now so that in the future I won’t have to referee. Additionally, I am help and encourage them develop their own skills and confidence when dealing with conflict outside of our home.

Action Steps to Encourage your Team to work it out without you having to referee:

  1. Co-developed strong Team norms. If your people are part of the planning, they will take ownership and will be more likely to use the norms to steer the conversation in the right direction. Don’t stop there! You have to model how to use the norms. Before I start a meeting, I ask each person to pick a norm they want to stick to during the meeting. Oftentimes, people pick a norm counter to their current mood. For example, if someone is crabby, they pick the “stay positive” norm. This creates an immediate behavior shift, which benefits everyone at the meeting, and I don’t have to lift a finger. 
  2. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations—lead! You’re the leader, show your team how it’s done! Ask clarifying questions, don’t make rash assumptions, and always address inappropriate behaviorsdon’t tolerate bullies. Here are some great phrases/questions to steer the conversations: 
  • “Tell me more about what you mean by that.” 
  • “Can you please repeat what you just said?” Oftentimes people are too embarrassed to repeat a negative comment. You can then say, “If you’re too embarrassed to say it now, why did you say it in the first place?” Then point to the “staying positive” norm.
  • “Is this in line with our common purpose” or “Is this in line with our norms?”

  3. Give your Team the tools needed to address inappropriate behaviors. Share the above phrases/questions with your team. Role-play, if necessary. 

  4. Provide clear expectations. Make sure your Team understands that you do not tolerate negative behaviors and that you expect them to have the fortitude to address each other when something seems amiss.

It seems simple, but for some reason, we don’t often take the time to have these conversations. Why wait? Less drama and conflict improves productivity and overall joy. Encourage your team to be open to understanding others and having mutual respect in the workplace.

Laura Colbert Consulting Programs 

Lead Well: For Newly Promoted Leaders is an 8-week program that will help your newly promoted leaders thrive as they move from peer status to power status. Click here to download the one-pager. Are you a good fit for this program? SIGN UP NOW! Book a free 30-minute consultation with Laura to make sure this is the best fit for you. NEXT PROGRAM STARTS IN JUNE.

The Trusted Advisor Program is my most intensive 1-on-1 program. Within 90 days, you’ll gain habits that create breakthrough success. You get personalized coaching and support, relentless accountability, and commonsense action steps that get results.

 Additional Offerings: 

Join our central Wisconsin in-person or online Impactful Leadership Lunch. Join like-minded leaders during this monthly mastermind lunch group to improve your business efficiency, boost employee retention, and get you focused on doing what gives you joy.

Are you looking for a Keynote Speaker at your next event? I use my past experiences and knowledge to show you how to be the best version of yourself, surround yourself with the right people, and build highly productive teams. 


Sirens: How to Pee Standing Up – An alarming memoir of combat and coming back home. This book depicts the time of war and its aftermath. It seamlessly bridges the civilian and military divide and offers clarity to moral injury and post-traumatic stress.