It’s a fact: Differences of opinion are bound to happen in the workplace. It’s the nature of bringing together people of unique backgrounds and experiences. It’s how we leverage these perspectives and overcome the potential divides that matter.
If disagreements arise, do we dig in our heels, refusing to acknowledge or accept another perspective? Of course not. That would only leave us spinning our wheels. Instead, we should take the time to understand and learn from the other side to reach an optimal resolution.
But meeting in the middle is easier said than done, especially in the face of urgent or high-stakes issues. Using these four steps as a guide, we can build common ground to help reduce potential conflicts and achieve our collective goals.
1. Ensure alignment. Setting a target at the outset of essential conversations will motivate everyone to continue negotiations, even amid setbacks, until an arrangement is reached to appease all or most parties involved.
2. Create an open environment. People are more willing to contribute their opinions when they feel their voices are heard, valued and needed. Creating an atmosphere of trust and transparency will give everyone a stake in accomplishing the desired objective.
3. Pick the right communication channel. People want to maximize their time and impact. Are emails or texts not fostering results? Consider shifting to face-to-face or Zoom meetings. Finding the right platform to connect will ensure everyone’s continued engagement.
4. Track progress. Even with the best intentions, things get waylaid by the busyness of work demands and daily activities. Develop a mechanism to stay on course — weekly check-ins, shared Google docs, etc. — and provide opportunities for regular constructive feedback.
Building common ground isn’t easy. It’s a process that takes time and buy-in from all involved. But the effort and the results it yields are worth it.
Julie Mullenix is the co-founder, lobbyist and legal counsel for Mullenix & Associates, an Arkansas-based government relations and consulting firm.