Team members often look to their leaders to keep individual team member behavior in check. Is it fair to make a team leader the only one responsible for team civility? Every team member needs to learn how to give feedback to others and master strategies for dealing with conflict when it arises. Here are two approaches:
First, be aware that everyone has a story.
· Your version of a problem, issue or event is only that…..your version. Someone else may see it differently. When you present your version as the “truth,” it escalates conflict and negatively impacts the relationship. It also increases the likelihood of a bad outcome if you approach resolution in this manner. On the other hand, if you tell your story as a story you are likely to promote discussion, clarify misunderstandings and get clearer insight.
For example, you might feel like saying “You bashed my project and threw me under the bus in yesterday’s meeting.” But what will follow? You will either get a defensive response (“I never said that.”) or a comment meant to diffuse tension (“Why are you being so sensitive?….I was only kidding”) or an aggressive response, “I think your project is a waste of resources”). Alternatively, we sometimes do an end-run and say nothing to the team member. Instead, we tell everyone else how we feel. In either case, we now have polarized points of view on the team.
Second, focus on giving feedback about how you interpreted their comment instead of attacking back.
· “In yesterday’s meeting when you said my project was a waste of our time and resources, it made me think you don’t believe I make a contribution to the team.” A statement like this invites explanation and discussion. It helps the listener clarify what they really meant to say. (For example, what he really meant to say was: We have limited resources, and, is this project our top priority?) Nine times out of ten, the comment was never designed to be upsetting or disrespectful. Comments meant to communicate one thing can easily be misinterpreted.
o WHAT HE MEANT: “Why does THIS project get our priority resources?
o WHAT YOU HEARD: “Am I really worthy of these resources?”
· This strategy makes it easier to approach the team member and hopefully reduces the gossip and end runs that often happen.
What You Can Do
1. Take responsibility for giving feedback to others on your team.
2. Tell your story, or your interpretation of what you heard as just that, your story.
3. Give others the benefit of the doubt.