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Discussing controversial issues is good training for problem-solving

Contentious topics like Brexit are likely to lead to heated discusses, which can descend into conflict in the workplace at the detriment of business progression, according to business consultant Jean Gamester.

However, conflict can be beneficial for a business and can lead to the development of a workforce proficient in creative problem-solving if it is broached in the appropriate manner, the director of business consultancy firm Semaphora said.

She added: “The first step to healthy conflict is to actually have the conflict. Of course this isn’t about losing all self-control and laying waste to those that annoy you. But if an issue is serious enough, I recommend heading onto it face on. We need to step out and talk together about what is going on.”

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The next step requires business bosses to address the issue at hand and not the person. The prospect of future collaboration dissolves when situations are made personal, Ms Gamester said.

Company heads should also look beyond their own point of view and attempt to gauge what lies behind the differing views held by employees, Ms Gamester said, adding that asking people the basis of their opinion fosters the foundation for agreement.

“We all have our triggers, the things that we react to that have nothing to do with the conversation at hand,” Ms Gamester said.

“What are your triggers that you bring to the conversation? Is it fair to the other person to react to those triggers even though it has nothing to do with them or the situation?”

She added bosses should enable employees to voice their points of view and reassure them that they have been taken into account when debating issues.

One of the more integral steps is to find a solution that addresses the concerns expressed by both parties. The chances are, there are things that unite both camps, Ms Gamester said, adding: “When you come to a conclusion, a consensus, stick with it.

“No matter what happens, give the agreed way forward your full support, otherwise it might fail just because you didn’t. Britain voted for Brexit – now we have to make it work whether we voted for it or not.”

“Let’s have the courage to bring conflict out in the open. Once it’s out there, be humble, curious and focussed on common interest.

Adviser view

Jeremy Edwards, associate partner and IFA at Martin-Redman Partners, said: “Luckily, we shared the same view on the EU referendum in our office. We were all remainers, but were not particular happy with the way the EU conducts itself. We buy fund solutions from Financial Express, which provided detailed literature on the likelihood of a Brexit and how it could affect portfolios.”