How to handle conflict in the workplace using DiSC®

As a corporate coach, I’m often invited into a workplace to help individuals who aren’t getting on to work better together. This might be between two team members, a manager and one of their direct reports or between two or more managers or leaders.

When you think about the diverse ways people are raised, the very different ‘rules’ and values people bring into the workplace, as well as their different biases and preferences, it’s amazing most people work together as well as they do!

When workplace relationships go wrong, it can have a serious impact on performance, productivity and results – not to mention the health and well being of the individuals involved.

The good news is that the DiSC® model and profiles can ‘helicopter in’ some powerful help to rescue situations that have seemed terminal! I’ve had the good fortune to witness some dire situations turn around by using the methods described in this blog.

So often people in conflict situations haven’t stopped to think that personal style differences might be playing a part. That’s because it’s so easy to blame others who operate differently from ourselves.

We all have ‘blind spots’ about our own behaviours and how we come across to others. We all have a tendency to ‘wave the flag’ for our own style preferences.

For example, someone with a ‘Dominance’ style might quite reasonably say ‘the most important thing is that we crack on and make a decision, move on, get some results, keep taking action’.

Someone with the ‘influence’ style might quite reasonably argue ‘yes, but it’s more important that we build relationships, work together, remain optimistic, focus on how we can influence others’.

Someone with the ‘Steadiness’ style might quite reasonably say ‘well surely the most important thing is long term stability. So we need to bring people with us, get on well together and not do anything too hasty’.

Whereas someone with the ‘Conscientious’ style might quite reasonably say ‘but surely the most important thing is that we check all the facts and get things right the first time. It’s the quality that comes from the detail that counts’.

Of course, all of these viewpoints have validity. It’s only when people are able to listen to each other, see the world through other people’s lenses and start to value each other’s different perspectives that they can begin to complement each other’s styles.

This is where DiSC® can help!

Find out how you can become a Certified DiSC® Trainer/Coach

When I’m asked to mediate, the first step I take is to invite the individuals to complete an online assessment questionnaire that produces their own personalised 20 – page Everything DiSC® Workplace profile report. I make sure the individuals don’t see their completed profile report until they are with me in a one to one meeting.

When I meet with each person individually, having listened to their ‘story’ about what’s going on, I explain the DiSC® model and how it works. I then get a clear outcome from them asking a question like ‘when this relationship has improved, what will have changed?’ In other words, how will you know the conflict has been resolved?

At this point, it’s important to help the individuals to focus on the things they CAN influence and to start to consider what they could do differently to improve the relationship. This encourages some ownership of the problem and the solution.

I also invite them to suggest some ‘ground rules’ they would like to be introduced to improve their working relationship.

By walking them through their Everything DiSC® Workplace profile they can start to understand and notice aspects of their behaviour that could smooth the way towards their outcome being achieved and also aspects that might be getting in the way of their outcome. By approaching it in this way, I’m not making their behaviour right or wrong…I’m just giving them the opportunity to consider if it’s useful or not useful, given what they’re trying to achieve.

Through the 1:1 profile coaching feedback session, the individuals start to understand and appreciate:

  • Their own personal biases
  • How they tend to react to the other individual
  • Strategies they can adopt to become more effective with the other person when problem solving, when things might get tense and when trying to build a better connection.

The profile helps them work towards creating an action plan and some ground rules they’d like to discuss in a facilitated group meeting involving the other person as well.

When it’s time to have the group meeting involving both individuals, I like to include the free Everything DiSC® comparison reports that compare the profiles of the individuals.

These profile reports focus on the six behavioural areas that most need to be addressed by these two people. They might be areas of difference (for example one person might be very outspoken and the other might be very private) or they might be areas of similarity (for example both might be sceptical or competitive)

I find that comparison reports give the group meeting a focus and provide a really helpful problem – solving vehicle for discussion. They help them to look at the areas that have been getting in the way and explore possible solutions.

The group meeting is the opportunity for you to facilitate a discussion about each of the ground rules (rules for engagement) that were suggested in the 1:1 meetings.

This allows you to create a collective list of ground rules that, once agreed, can be tried, tested and then reviewed regularly.

For more information, please call me (Julie French) or email me.