We’ve all been there and it’s never comfortable. In fact, the experience has often been likened to a root canal without Novocaine. We often turn away and avoid it at any expense. What are we talking about? The art of conflict resolution.
The stage is often set as follows: two employees show up at your office door and are in the midst of a heated discussion. There are accusations of wrongdoing flying each way. You try to calm things down and get each party to describe their respective points of view,but more often than not it breaks down quickly into a pointless ‘He said, she said’ exchange. Your attempts to resolve the conflict are going nowhere, fast.
So what do you do? Do you send both employees away and tell them to ‘grow up’? That won’t do much to solve the problem. In fact, it usually acts only to bury it, with the near certainty that it will resurface again.
As an aviation leader, how do you effectively handle conflict within your flight department when it arises? What do you do to respect each position, but ferret out the truth? How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? How do you create a level playing field in resolving differences of opinion in a way that each person feels they have been ‘listened to?’
One very effective way is the use of a simple four-step conflict resolution process named for the acronym that it carries, ‘FIJA’ (pronounced ‘fee-ja’). It’s a proven way to defuse and resolve just about any interpersonal issue or organizational conflict.
‘FIJA’ stands for Feelings, Information, Judgment, Action.
The key to its effective use is to get both parties together and, with a vow of confidentiality, have them articulate their respective points of view in a highly structured way. As the process unfolds, facts emerge as well as perspectives. Resolution often occurs on its own, with you—their leader—merely playing the role of facilitator.
Here’s how the FIJA process works:
Feelings –First, get each person to articulate his or her feelings. Feelings are just that, how one feels and not what they think. What does the situation make both people feel? Anger? Sadness? Disappointment? A sense of being let down?Whatever the emotions, get them out at this early stage and avoid any intellectualizing or evaluation. Using a flip chart, divide a page into two columns with a vertical line, one side for one person and one for the other. Jot down the feelings of each, respectively.
Information– Next, get both people to detail the fact-based specifics that caused them to feel the way they do. This is no time for subjectivity. It’s time for the ‘Joe Friday’ (of ‘Dragnet’ fame) approach of ‘just the facts.’ Are there emails to substantiate feelings? Memos?Did a conversation occur that could be substantiated by an unbiased third party?Gather all the facts and write these down on the flip chart as well.
Judgment –Now, ask both people to offer their judgment of what they think is going on,based on (and only on), the facts that they you’ve presented. For instance, one person might think the other is trying to undermine him or her. Or play favorites. It’s important that these statements be made very clearly and based solely on the facts presented. This is the time when perspectives begin to emerge.Whatever they are, write them down on the flip chart page.
Action –Finally, ask each person to state what action he or she wants to see emerge from the discussion. One person might ask for a policy clarification, or perhaps roles and responsibilities more clearly defined. The other might want a processor procedure to be established to lessen the likelihood of the same thing happening again. Whatever they might be, add them to the flip chart.
Now you have fact-based information to work with. Supposition is out the window. Your role as a facilitator will likely remain unchanged, as the answer has most-likely emerged from the exercise.
What often happens is that between the second and third steps (Information and Judgment), with the structure of the process guiding the way, the participants resolve the conflict themselves. We typically hear comments such as, “I didn’t know you felt that way,” or, “No way did I mean that!” The structure of the process enables self-resolution to occur.
You can use the FIJA process in group settings with equal effectiveness as between two individuals. We’ve used it with groups large and small, with successful outcomes. Before the process is completed, the participants themselves usually resolve the conflict.
We’re sure you have used effective conflict resolution tools in your flight department. If so, we’d like to hear about them. We invite you to share them with us using the link below.