Managing Team Conflict: The ACES Method
  • leadership
  • Blog post

Managing Team Conflict: The ACES Method

If you lead a team, you’ve probably experienced conflict among your team members. When it happened, did you know what to do?

See, the thing is that there’s conflict and then there’s conflict. Some kinds of conflict, especially over ideas, are healthy, even necessary. Without these conflicts, teams can devolve into group-think, and eventually they stop producing the high-quality results expected of them.

But sometimes conflict isn’t so healthy. Maybe it arises because of bad intentions. Maybe somebody has a bad attitude. Maybe somebody gets angry. Maybe somebody is using conflict as a tool to intimidate others and get their way.

Staying constructive
For managers, the trick is to make sure that team conflict stays constructive, and doesn’t derail a team’s progress. To help make sure that conflict among team members stays productive, let’s take a look at a process we call the ACES method:

  • First, you need to Acknowledge the conflict. Often people are reluctant to admit there’s a conflict, because it makes them appear hard to work with. Acknowledging the conflict makes it clear that disagreement is OK.
  • Next, managers need to Clarify the conflict. This lets the opposing sides know they’ve been heard. It also helps narrow the scope of the conflict and keeps extraneous issues off the table.
  • Enlist the two parties’ support for finding a solution. It’s critical to get both of them to agree to want to resolve the disagreement. This puts both parties’ integrity on the line.
  • Only after both people have agreed to work toward a solution can you Suggest ways to Solve the conflict. This can only happen after the conflict at hand is clear to both parties, so everyone understands what a practical solution looks like.

So next time conflict breaks out in your team, trying playing your ACES!

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