This article shares efficient conflict resolution tools to de-escalate difficult conflicting situations and resolve disputes.
Planning an event is highly stressful and inherently prone to conflict because it involves multiple hands doing different things all at once. Event day can be even more stressful – the whole team feels pressure to succeed, and emotions run high. In this climate, misunderstandings happen and lead to conflict. How the team treats misunderstandings and resolves conflict within itself will significantly impact the event. The team needs to be able to reconcile differences while staying vocal and keeping the mood upbeat and motivated to carry on helping one another towards the event’s success.
Conflict can also occur between event planners and their clients. In those scenarios, one party has to defer. The event planner usually defers because “the client is always right” and must be treated respectfully. However, the bottom line is that everyone wants the event to succeed, from the planning team to the client.
So, it’s apparent that event pros cannot afford to not be equipped with effective tools for conflict resolution. While it is undoubtedly better to prevent conflict by maintaining respect and compromise within the team, conflict will always occur.
Related: How Event Pros Can Manage Stress With Emotional Intelligence
Conflict Resolution Strategies Within Event Managing Teams
1. Communicating expectations
Before thinking about how conflict can be resolved, focus on ways to stop it from even happening in the first place. One of the quickest ways for problems to ensue is if people are not in their proper position or don’t know what they are meant to be doing at any given time.
Conflict may also arise because people’s expectations are not met. It is thus imperative that you communicate expectations not just to the person who must deliver them but to everyone else in the team, so they know who to hold accountable. As a leader, you must explain the following to each individual in your team:
Explain what the standard of behavior that is expected is as well as behavior that will not be tolerated. These expectations are determined by each person’s role and the tone and audience of that event.
Titles and responsibilities:
Giving everyone on the team their title is not enough. You also want to make sure that each person knows everyone else’s responsibilities. You can make this information available on a shared drive or your event planning software by writing each person’s name, job title, and duties so that it is available for the whole team to read at any time.
Pro-tip: ThymeBase has a People section in each event that’s just perfect for this!
The event’s goals:
The main goal for any event is to succeed, but there are many smaller goals within the event. The client may have specific goals to increase sales, leads, or brand engagement. The goals and the strategy to reach them must be communicated to the team so everyone executes their efforts in the right direction.
Related: Best Practices for Planning Profitable Fundraising Events
2. De-escalating heated emotions
This is another conflict resolution strategy that is more preoccupied with preventing conflict so that you don’t need to resolve it. A situation has the potential for conflict when voices are raised, tears are shed, or aggressive bodily gestures are displayed. Your main objective as the event manager is to de-escalate those emotions and start a conversation to mediate between the two parties having a misunderstanding.
Most people will get very emotional and defensive when feeling attacked. Make clear as a mediator that you have no personal interest in the matter and that no particular person is being attacked or blamed.
Rally everyone’s focus on the facts. Note what has gone wrong and what needs to be done to fix it? However big or small the problem is, to avoid highly emotional reactions, ensure no one is cornered or confronted in isolation.
3. Making the resolution a team exercise
Suppose you are in a situation where the conflict has already occurred. In that case, you want to be transparent about it to prevent gossip in the team. Whether the conflict happens during the planning or the actual event itself, make time to sit the team down and debrief them on the conflict.
To avoid pinpointing blame, you can turn the conflict into a teachable moment. Point everyone to the lessons that need to be learned to avoid those mistakes happening again.
You don’t want to be dismissive or be the only voice as the leader. Let everyone contribute an opinion on how the conflict can be avoided in the future. If the conflict is between two members of the team and it’s specific to them, bring in a fourth party to help come up with solutions to help the two in conflict.
4. Encouraging an exchange of perspectives
It can also be effective to lead the people in conflict in a perspective-shifting exercise that can help them understand the other person’s feelings. Conflict is often perpetuated by refusing to see things from each other’s point of view. You can ask both parties specific questions to get them to communicate what they think the other person is thinking and feeling. Those perceptions can be openly challenged or resolved. You can ask questions such as these:
- How do you think the other person feels about the way you are fulfilling your responsibilities?
- What does the other person think about the state of this event or project? Is it on track or not?
- How is the other person’s response to stress different from yours, and how would you react to this situation if you were them?
- Are your emotions matched to the other person’s emotions?
- Who does the other person report to, and what do you think will be the repercussions if they don’t deliver on an instruction?
These questions will help you access each person’s feelings about the other as the mediator. It will also help them see the conflict from each other’s point of view and start opening their minds to compromise.
5. Consider external factors
For some people, the conflict may not be entirely based on the current situation. They may be juggling many other tasks at once, feeling overwhelmed, or going through something difficult in their personal life.
It can go a long way to ask questions beyond the issue at hand and listen closely to the responses. The solution may lie in a situation outside of the actual conflict.
If it is something that you can’t solve as a manager, you can use it as an opportunity to build a stronger interpersonal relationship with your team member. No conflict is the same. The personal aspect cannot always be laid aside. While some will require strict conflict resolution steps, others will need you to be subjective and give your time by listening and showing empathy.
Conflict Resolution Strategies Between You And Your Clients
When it comes to resolving conflict between your team and your client, you will have to take the high road and be willing to go the extra mile to appease the client. Even in circumstances where you feel that the client is wrong.
1. Acknowledge the conflict
The last thing you want to do is throw a blanket over a conflict with a client and pretend like it is not there. Before you know it, the client will take their business somewhere else or take to social media to give you a bad review after the event.
Be sensitive to everything that goes on in your meetings with your clients. If you sense some tension or the client voices their unhappiness about something, listen to their suggestions. And if you disagree with them, do so with deference and measured explanations.
2. Should you be involved?
If the conflict is between the client and a team member, it’s vital to do right by the client and maintain a healthy relationship with your team member. At the onset of the conflict resolution, handle it with discretion. Make sure it does not become bigger to involve more members in the team.
With some conflicts, you may need to just advise your team member on how to resolve the dispute without you getting involved. In others, you may need to sit the client and the member of your team down and mediate between them. It will depend on how far the conflict has gone and how significant its implications are.
3. Normalize compromise
A sure way to safeguard your team from being wracked by conflict is to normalize compromise and change. Help your team alter choices to accommodate clients. This way when conflict arises with a client, your team members will be able to negotiate and meet the client halfway.
Compromising can happen by allowing the client to have their way in one aspect of the event so that you can have your way in another. Conflict resolution can also be a matter of merging both suggestions and blending with your way with the client’s way.
4. Be prepared to make the necessary moves
Conflict resolution with a client may be as simple as sitting them down to a conversation and reaching a reasonable compromise. However, if the conflict persists, you may need to make changes like reshuffling your team to make the client happy.
In the extreme case, you may need to pass the client on to another event planner if you feel like they cannot work with you and your team.
5. Keep a detailed paper trail
You may have a conflict resolution meeting with a client and think you have reached an agreement and later find that the client believes something different. Make sure that you or someone in your team takes detailed notes during conflict resolutions and records what everyone says. Also, in the case of letting a client go or dismissing someone in your team, you will need the paperwork if there is a labor law case.
Pro-tip: ThymeBase’s event planning software has an activity tracker that automatically keeps a paper trail of all comments, task progress, and more.
Pre-Emptive Conflict Resolution
The best way to solve conflict is by avoiding it entirely. In stressful instances of your event planning and execution, it can help you to alert your team so that they can approach the situation with calm. It is much better to spot potential areas where there can be clashing and address them before going further with the event. However, when conflict inevitably happens, use it as a lesson to bring your team together and avoid future pitfalls.