Most of us have encountered tension and conflict in meetings. This can be stimulating and motivating, but on the other hand, it can also offend the team’s evolution and confidence. What will you do if you are in charge of a meeting and conflict occurs? How do you restore things to their places? How can you assure that these conflicts will not affect your work?
You cannot always prevent conflicts in meetings but you can do many things to avoid them from influencing your work. You can turn these conflicts and tension into a positive force, and one that generates better solutions and results. You can as well work to reduce the negative impact of conflict. You can also help those involved accept the situation when consensus is not possible.
Conflicts in meetings arouse from two separate reasons:
- Real professional differences – Clash can rise from actual differences in professional views. Most of the time, these differences do not grow into open conflict. However, conflict is more probable to happen when the decision being made is irreversible, or when the impact of making the wrong decision will badly affect those involved. This type of conflict should not be left unresolved because it can quickly damage relationships.
- Power struggles and personality issues – When individuals or groups do not like one-another, conflict will appear. This type of conflict is more about people’s personalities than about evidences or decisions.
The best way to prevent conflicts consists in well preparing the meeting, and leading it strongly bearing in mind all factors. It is particularly important to make sure your expectations match what the group is capable of handling. You also should consider sending out the agenda in advance, and have the group agree on it before the gathering takes place. During the meeting, try as much as possible to follow this agenda without being too much rigid. A good agenda makes it easier to recognize if the group is going off course in case a conflict appears.
You should also pay attention to meetings where the people involved have a history of causing conflict and where individuals begin to struggle for influence. In these cases, set the meeting rules in advance. These rules can be:
- Only one person may speak at a time and after raising his hand and taking the permission.
- The chair may recap what has been said to make sure everyone understands.
- Everyone has to contribute, so that no person can take over the discussion.