Handle conflict situations effectively with pointers from CIOs

Conflict is essential for growth, so it’s said. We caught with many a leading CIO to learn how you can handle conflict at the workplace.

Any team may be compared to a mechanical clock — it consists of various parts, differing in their size, role and function. Sometimes, this clock may not be wound well to expectations, and may see some conflict of interests. It is then crucial that any disruption that threatens the potency of the clock is repaired. In such cases, it is the CIO at the workplace should be able to handle conflict situations and view this as an opportunity for growth.

Identifying factors: Not many CIOs can handle conflict within a team effectively. A conflict could be for several reasons. Most of them are issues that could be resolved with training; while the soft factors are more difficult to resolve. These may be personal differences between team members. A CIO needs to handle conflict by finding out the underlying hard factor behind the soft factor.

The vigilant CIO: Although the CIO plays an authoritative role, he cannot be monarch to his team. Forcing employees to get along cannot be the solution. He must be attentive to activities and potentials of team members if he needs to handle conflict well. Prasanth Puliakottu, the CIO at Sterlite says, “Allowing the team to make their choices empowers them. But the CIO has to be open so that they may come to him with problems and issues.”

Variety is not always spice: Different people work differently. But there has to be a promotion of a competitive yet healthy environment. To this end, Pertisth Mankotia, the head of IT at Sheela Foam (Sleepwell) suggests, “Social gatherings are a good way to allow employees to know each other better. You can handle conflict effectively once you know the organizational culture.”

The trick to handling conflicts is to have a stringent and well-defined work process. Standard methodology and having work templates help. The interest of the team is also a determining factor as to how and what will be worked on. Puliakottu says, “If there is knowledge and interest and if an opportunity arises, it should be grabbed immediately. The knowledge of the team potential then becomes significant.”

Making room for responsibilities: The next area to handle conflicts derives from delegation of work, which is attached to capacity of the employee. The job description has to be a benchmark to performance. The environment of the employee would serve to deter him or encourage him. These factors fall to the CIO to resolve. Past interest and performance also counts in delegation of tasks.

When delegating work, two types of conflicts may arise. One, it could be that any single employee could be in charge of a coveted responsibility. A conflict could arise if someone else also aspires for the same role. The second is skill. CIOs can handle conflict here by prioritizing work and make a skilled person take ownership of the project.

It is the CIO’s duty to ensure that every team member has opportunities to prove themselves – this way there is growth for both employee and company. For this, opportunities have to be published, and should be incorporated in the growth plan. It has to be performance based, and a decision can be made based on the efforts people are making to utilize that opportunity.

Providing equal opportunities to all: After opportunities are created, attention must be turned to handle conflict owing to responsibilities. Roles should be strictly evaluated. Issues that arise due to targets could be solved by regular reviews and appraisals. Sudhir Mittal, the CIO at SAMTEL says, “Comparison between people causes conflicts. So I suggest that a structured process based on performance and a detailed performance sheet be maintained to back decisions.”

Regular reviews help the team informed of changes in performance. These should be communicated. Goals should be mutually agreed upon. Puliakottu suggests, “Whenever undertaking any project, breaking down the project to workable modules and clear goals helps to handle conflict, if any that rise. Each person takes ownership for their part of the project.”

Along with specific goals, they have to be challenging to keep the person interested. This could be in the form of remuneration. Mankotia says, “In our company we appraise in two ways, one through individual evaluations and another through team evaluation. This acts as a motivation.”

Change management: Adjusting and adapting to change also needs to be on the list of goals. The team leader needs to offer an explanation of the reason behind the change. This helps to handle conflict and shows the benefits of the project to the user, thus, making it more acceptable.

Participation in planning: Keep the team involved right from the planning process. This way there is participation in the managerial process. Reduce communication gap through regular briefings. Change management could be made easy with enough IT and process knowledge levels.

To effectively handle conflict situations, training is among the best assets in your toolbox. It negates the tendencies of incompetency and provides a stable platform for work.

This was last published in August 2010

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