When conflict arises, it is easy for Soldiers to get entrenched in their positions and for tempers to flare, voices to rise, and body language to become defensive or aggressive. As an NCO, you will always need to take a passive stance toward your Soldiers, especially in stressful situations. With instilling good relationships, listening carefully, setting the standard and resolving conflicts, NCO’s will have the tools to complete the mission and create unit cohesion. NCO’s that have Soldiers need to be prepared to handle conflicts to effectively complete missions and create unit cohesion.
As an NCO, your priority in any conflict situation is to take control early and maintain good relationships within your team. Ensure that everyone understands how the conflict could be a mutual problem, and that it is important to resolve it through respectful discussion and negotiation, rather than aggression. Clarify that it is essential for Soldiers to work together happily, effectively and without resentment so that the team and unit can function effectively. It is also important to let team members know that conflict is rarely one-sided and that it is best to resolve it collaboratively, by addressing the problem rather than the personalities involved. The problem is caused by neither Soldier, but they do need to work together to resolve it. As an NCO, you must be mindful to remind Soldiers that without team solidarity the mission will not succeed.
It is important that NCO’s understand each party’s underlying interests, needs, and concerns. Be aware that in a stressful environment it may be difficult to keep cool. So remember to take a positive stance, keep the conversation courteous, and avoid blaming anyone. Ask for each Soldier’s viewpoint, and confirm that you need his or her cooperation to solve the problem. Ask your team members to make an effort to understand one another’s motivations and goals, and to think about how those may affect their actions, and the task at hand to accomplish the mission.
Once you have, your Soldiers understanding encourage them to use active listening skills, such as looking directly at the speaker, listening carefully, nodding, and allowing each person to finish before talking. Remind Soldiers of their military bearing and customs while working issues out with fellow team members. By following these guidelines, everyone will be able to hear and understand one another’s positions and perceptions. Focusing on listening will also help to prevent the conversation from becoming heated and getting out of hand in a tactical environment. Encourage each team member to listen to other Soldiers points of view, without defending their own position. Ensure that each Soldier has finished talking before someone else speaks, emphasize that you, as their NCO wants to resolve the situation through discussion and negotiation, and ensure that listeners understand the problem fully by asking questions for further clarification. Once you have listened to your Soldier needs and concerns, outline the behaviors and actions that you will or will not tolerate, and gain the opposing parties’ acknowledgment to your standards.
When you have a melting pot of different Soldier with different underlying needs, interests, and goals, they can often cause people to perceive problems differently. You will need to set the standard to gain team cohesion before the problem that you are trying to solve can be mutually acceptable. As an NCO, you should have a team agreement of the facts that are relevant to the mission and task at hand. Sometimes, Soldiers will see only the different interlocking problems of the task at hand but miss the ‘big picture’ aspect of the mission. Therefore, if your Soldiers cannot reach an agreement, NCO’s should aim to understand their perception of the problem while instilling trust and leadership to help smooth over conflicts.
By this stage, you as the NCO will have resolved the conflict. Each side will likely understand the other Soldiers position better while carrying on the task and mission. However, you may also have uncovered some serious differences within your team. This is where an NCO can learn and grow from an inter-unit conflict so that you can find a solution that satisfies everyone. Alternatively, you might need to take action to change the fundamental circumstances that have caused the conflict. By having an After Action Review with your team when the mission comes to an index, you can help your Soldier generate solutions and you can ensure that everyone feels included. Soldiers will likely be satisfied with the outcome knowing their NCO is open to all suggestions, including ones you might not have considered before.
NCO’s should always remember they will accomplish the mission and protect the welfare of their Soldiers by ingraining great connections, listening with open ears, setting the standard and settling conflicts as they arise. Following these guidelines will help NCO’s to become better leaders moving forward. Building upon unit cohesion and effectively completing the will be handled by great NCO’s, who guide their Soldiers though conflicts.