When you have a team of people from diverse geographical locations, various backgrounds, and with different motivations all working towards a shared business purpose, you can’t expect them to agree on everything. The truth is, workplace conflict is inevitable, and ignoring it can be costly for a social or business organization. Conflict in the workplace can be as a result of:
- Personality differences
- Poor communication and misunderstandings
- Unclarified roles in the workplace
- Unmet expectations and needs
- Power struggles
- Performance discrepancies
- Irritating workplace behaviors
- Competing job duties etc.
Even though people might go to great lengths to avoid it, conflict is actually normal and healthy for meaningful working relationships and organizational success. It can help your business learn more about how you can grow and foster better company culture. Organizations that encourage a culture of dissent and allow their teams to disagree with one another can generate new ideas, spur innovation, and develop better decision-making.
Accept It: Conflict Happens
Here’s the thing—workplace conflict will find you whether you like it or not. The challenge is how you choose to deal with it. So why you should you address conflict head on? Because failure to handle and manage conflicts in the workplace can result in:
- Decrease in productivity
- Employee turnover and termination
- Work disruptions
- Conflict escalation and violence
- Diminished work performance
- Project failure
- Low employee morale
- Increased tension and stress among employees
Define What Constitutes Acceptable Behavior
Reflect upon the conflicts you have encountered in the workplace over the years. How many were as a result of a communication problem? It’s not uncommon for employees to make decisions based on assumptions, especially when they aren’t aware of any existing framework that guides decision making in the organization.
The first step towards managing conflict is creating a framework that defines what constitutes acceptable behavior among employees. This includes having clearly defined job descriptions for each employee and setting specific guidelines regarding workplace culture, talent management, and leadership development. Also, make sure there’s an articulated chain of command in the organization. This allows for effective communication within your teams, making it easier to handle workplace conflict.
Embrace Workplace Conflict
As mentioned, you can’t avoid conflicts in the workplace. However, you can seek out areas of potential conflict and proactively intervene fairly and decisively. Always embrace conflict and deal with whatever uncomfortable issues arise as soon as possible.
For you to provide leadership, you must cultivate and maneuver the full potential of everyone within the organization. This means knowing what to do to resolve a conflict before healthy tension within your teams transforms into a troublesome mess. Here’s what you can do when conflict arises:
Communicate via active listening
You need to have a sit-down somewhere and talk without outside interruptions. Be attentive when each person talks and try to put yourself in their shoes. How else will you get a true sense of the motive behind the conflict if you don’t listen?
It’s likely the conversation will focus primarily on the points of disagreements but you can only resolve the conflict when you find commonalities and points of agreement. Embrace a positive and assertive approach and identify possible solutions to the issues raised.
Focus on helping your employees see what they would do differently next time so they can prevent such a situation from happening. Suggest actions each person can take after the meeting.
Invest in a Conflict Management Course
To curb the effects of workplace conflict, organizations are turning to conflict management training (learn more here: https://kilmanndiagnostics.com/). Providing ongoing training in conflict management can help employees understand their own conflict resolution styles and learn to develop healthier behavioral norms. Conflict management courses cover many topics and can be offered through group training, individual training, and workshops. As an organization, you should select an approach that best suits the type of conflict you want to address in your workplace.
Identify Points of Agreement and Disagreement
Do not interrupt when a person is talking. Focus on identifying points of disagreement and how each party feels about the situation. You can repeat back to them what you’ve heard to make sure you’ve understood what they mean.
Conflict should be an opportunity for growth, improvement, and positive change. Looking at workplace conflicts this way makes it easier to apologize to the other person and mean it. You’re able to acknowledge their hurt feelings and forgive them for their actions. This means the conflict is resolved without anyone keeping grudges that can deepen over time.
Just remember everyone makes mistakes and can misinterpret a situation. You must have empathy for your colleagues in the workplace.