The world of compliance is not free from conflict. Navigating competing priorities, negotiating favorable outcomes, addressing audit observations, and enforcing good food safety culture are some everyday activities that require seasoned conflict resolution skills.
In an age when consumers and suppliers struggle to keep up with technological advancements, the ongoing pandemic has added yet another a layer of disruption. Shifting work policies, recovering supply chains, and rapid changes to the availability of skilled and unskilled workforces are some of the many challenges food safety professionals face worldwide. It’s becoming progressively important for food safety leaders to be able to resolve conflicts mindfully so that they can lead their teams through transition and change.
Here are few key areas worth considering.
Know Your Team Before You Lead Them
The common mistake I’ve seen new managers and supervisors make is not taking the time to understand the dynamics of the team to which they’ve been assigned. Every team has its mix of high performers, eager collaborators, independent problem solvers, and people who are relatively new to the team. A leadership approach that may have worked for a previous team may not necessarily produce the same results with a new team. Knowing the difference between managing and leading is important, too: Managing is how you get things done, and leading is who you are.
New HACCP team leaders may struggle with delegation, especially if they are skilled at accomplishing certain tasks. Switching gears from a “do-it-yourself” mindset, to a “getting-it-done” mentality takes practice, patience, and perseverance.
Humanize HACCP Team Meetings
HACCP team meetings, if conducted correctly, offer great opportunities to help teams to solve problems together. Again, keeping in mind the dynamics of your team, HACCP meetings can help open transparent dialogues between two or more departments. To humanize HACCP team meetings means to create moments of vulnerability, such as asking the team, “What did we learn from this experience?” or “How might we do things differently next time?”
Understand Your Conflict Management Style
Looking back, I wish I had spent more time understanding my conflict management style before taking on a leadership role. K. Thomas and R. Kilmann developed the modern-day Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Management Model to help individuals understand their strengths and pinpoint areas that need development when it comes to resolving conflicts mindfully. The model describes the five common conflict management styles: collaborating, competing, accommodating, compromising, and avoiding.
Another element that impacts how we address conflicts is cultural background. Some cultures embrace conflict, while others are averse to them. In some regions, addressing conflicts sounds foreign to them, especially within a hierarchical society. Understanding these differences while managing a diverse team will help avoid common pitfalls that can arise while managing conflicts.
Place Context at the Forefront
Context is everything. It’s a misconception that high performers always stay high performers. Performance is tied to people, systems, processes, and—most importantly—purpose. The purpose is often overlooked as a performance driver, and this gets in the way of building trust between teams and leaders. Even as challenges arise, helping teams connect the dots between roles, responsibilities, and their purpose helps reinforce a positive workplace culture.
What are some conflict resolution styles that you’ve adopted recently? What was the outcome? Leave your comments below.