Working Mother

Working Mom Skill: Conflict Management

Before I chose to stay home with my kids, I was able to practice my conflict management in a number of different ways.  Not just as part of a team, but also as the leader of a team.

There were conflicts about which person to feature as a speaker or what marketing to focus on. Or how aggressive our goals were supposed to be. Or whether potato chips can be considered a vegetable. (Yes, really!)

Not all conflicts are major – in fact, there are many more small conflicts to deal with every day. There are actually two definitions of the word “conflict.”

The first is “a serious disagreement or argument, typically a protracted one.” This is what we are used to viewing as a conflict. A big argument or blow-up between two or more people.

The second definition is “be incompatible or at variance; clash.” This kind of conflict occurs much more often. You are more likely to be incompatible (or disagree) than to have a large, protracted argument. (At least I hope so.)

However, it was when I became a mom that I REALLY learned about managing conflict. These are likely learned by many parents.

  • I learned that not all conflict needs to be mediated by me. Some needs to just be watched to make sure it doesn’t escalate. (Think of sibling conflicts.)
  • I learned that sometimes managing conflict means avoiding it in the first place. (How many times have you avoided the toy store or section of a store so your child doesn’t have a meltdown?)
  • I learned that stating expectations ahead of time can reduce conflict. (Does anyone else have a list of what is expected of a clean bedroom?)
  • I learned that any rule worth having is worth enforcing. If it will not be enforced, then get rid of it. Choosing which rules to follow weaken all of your rules.
  • I learned that if the conflict is large enough, people need mental and physical space in order to calm down before dealing with the conflict.
  • I learned that there is a time and place for conflict, but certain situations do not allow for this. (When one child gets hurt, the rest need to work together to help.)

So, how exactly can I tell a hiring manager that my best lessons on conflict resolution have been learned as a mom? How can my experiences putting children in time out carry over to the workplace?

The best place to highlight your conflict management skills is in the interview. After all, you can simply list this as a skill on your resume and there is no place for explanation. However, in the interview, you will have about a minute or so to prove that  you are great at this skill.

The wonderful thing about the interview is that you can list your skills and knowledge but you only need to use one good story as an example of what you learned. You do not need to tell all of the stories behind your skills, only the best one.

Choose those skills you will need based on the job description. Will you be part of a team? Or will you lead the team? Will you need to more or less independent in managing conflict? Will you need to deal with conflict on a daily basis or less often?

Make a quick list of your best conflict management skills and find a great story of how you took an active role in this. Even if you have to go back a few years in order to find a relevant work (or volunteer) example, you will want to use that example to highlight your skills.

You learn so much about conflict management from parenting and, even if you can’t put other staff in time outs, there are definitely skills that can transfer to the workplace.


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