If you chose the consulting careerYou already know that internal conflicts within the organization that hired you, even if they have nothing to do with your work or the project you are implementing, can even indirectly undermine your project and / or harm your business. customer relationship.
The fact is that conflicts are part of every human being's day, in any kind of interpersonal relationship. Whether at work, at social events and even at home. Whether it's a specific task or a personal problem, conflict is often costly, both financially and emotionally.
Negotiation and conflict often come together - and the consultant needs the ability to deal with it. After all, if you are not able to resolve conflicts in a healthy and productive manner, you are probably not the right person to take on a project management role, ie a consultant.
In short: don't be afraid of conflict, they are part of your job. The ability to recognize your nature by focusing on a win-win, integrative approach with empathy and understanding between the parties can be paramount to the success of your project - or its downfall.
But how to deal with internal customer conflicts without creating a discomfort, without negativity, focused on the smooth running of your project? Here are some tips.
Don't pretend the conflict doesn't exist
This is tip number one for quite simple reasons: sticking your head in the sand and waiting for the conflict to simply resolve itself by magic is definitely the most ineffective "strategy" you can choose.
Conflict rarely resolves itself. Quite the contrary, in general, it increases when not treated properly - and proactively. A misunderstanding can turn out to be a huge event after all.
Try to understand the reason for the conflict
Yes, we know that conflict does not seem to be your responsibility, because it is something internal to your client, which at first does not concern you. However, as seen above, pretending it doesn't exist will not help at all. So it is better to get to the heart of the matter.
What can create conflicts in the workplace? Contrary positions and opinions, competitive tensions, power struggles, ego and jealousy, discrepancies in commitment and performance, and even external problems from someone struggling to manage them.
Although it seems that everything can be a cause for conflict, even a simple “bad day,” the root of it often lies in lack of communication or inability to control emotions.
Many conflicts result from lack of information, or incomplete and incorrect data. Clear and accurate communication, by contrast, often reduces the frequency and severity of conflicts.
The second problem is when decisions are permeated by emotion. So instead of making choices and taking action based on what is best for the company or the team, decision makers end up letting the heart drive the future.
It is therefore essential to find out where, how, when and with whom the conflict was born. After all, only with a diagnosis of the disease is it possible to prescribe a treatment.
Help the customer reach their goals
By understanding the root causes of conflict, as outlined above, you will be able to understand the motivations of the people involved.
With that in mind, the best way to end the problem is to help these people quench their motivations. This means that if you can find ways to help these people reach their goals, you will have discovered the formula for overcoming this obstacle.
To begin with, if the project you are implementing is capable of improving the daily lives of people in conflict, demonstrate. Call on each stakeholder and show that what is causing the wrath of the stakeholders will be resolved in no time with the new process or tool already on the horizon.
But if your project has nothing to do with the motivations, then you will need to evaluate some issues. For example, if the person involved in the conflict is a leader, whether it is you who hired you or someone who has a lot of influence on the project, it is a good idea to offer guidance if it is your job.
However, in this case, check the cost-effectiveness of joining this fight. If helping with conflict resolution is simple, not time consuming and resource intensive, go ahead. You'll be seen as a problem solver by your client, and that's a great impression for a consultant.
On the other hand, if the causes of the conflict are not leaders, it is important that you summon your contractor and the necessary leaders and keep them up to date, explaining that the outcome of the project can be compromised.
If you can offer any support in this regard, offer it, but only with the leader's seal. If this support is costly enough, consider including this guidance in your scope of the project, including budget changes.
See conflict with an opportunity
As you may have noticed in the previous item, the conflict may be of interest to the consultant. First, because you can offer a creative and innovative approach to the problem, something only a third party who is not emotionally involved with the organization can do. And that alone will be welcomed by your customer.
In addition, properly addressed divergences can stimulate innovation and learning among teams. And smart leaders will be able to realize the positive influence you will be adding to the group.
Second, because, depending on the problem, conflict can enter the project diagnosis and, consequently, increase its scope and performance with the company, ensuring more space (and perhaps greater revenues) for its services.
After some time in the consulting business, you will be able to determine which areas are conducive to fostering conflict. Your experience will show you that depending on what - or who - your project moves on, the greater the chances of conflict coming to you.
Therefore, you will assess “potential areas of conflict” and intervene proactively and decisively, imposing some rules and limits that will prevent - or minimize - subsequent conflicts.
Choose your battles
Although we have said that you should never blind yourself to a conflict, you should avoid conflict by conflict. That is, if the problem is important enough, there will certainly be need and interest from everyone involved in solving it.
However, when it comes to a shallow circumstance, that is, if you realize it is just a person's bad day, something that will happen tomorrow, or if it is something so superficial that it will not affect your project, then save your guns for you.
You don't have to get involved in what doesn't concern you. Definitely worry only about what may affect the outcome of your work or the way you will be viewed in the organization.
In summary, always keep in mind that one of a consultant's main job is to create strong partnerships and be able to negotiate in difficult and troubled situations. Therefore, work on your client's conflict with creativity and empathy to provide a positive environment for him - and therefore open to you.