Managing conflict in the workplace is something we all will likely have to handle sometime in our career
How you manage conflict in the workplace can make a difference in job satisfaction, retention and your corporate culture. Workplace conflict can go beyond the obvious exhibits of yelling or tense interactions and can exist in more subtle ways. Sometimes conflict can manifest as passive aggression, embarrassment, exclusion or complete avoidance. Regardless of its form, conflict is something that has to be handled as soon as you notice it or as soon as it is brought to your attention. There are strategic ways to resolve conflict within your team or organization that can help both sides walk away with an acceptable solution.
Foster strong relationships within your team
Wish you could avoid conflict entirely? That may not be an option, but you can be proactive in by creating strong bonds and relationships within your teams. Team building and other efforts can help you set the team up for success and potentially reduce conflict down the road. Team members that know one another are more likely to give the other person benefit of the doubt because they will have knowledge of who their coworker is as a person.
Use data to give you a map to success
You can use an assessment, like AcuMax, to find out how a person is wired. This will help you as a leader in times of conflict because you will have a better idea about what could be causing the friction. With the results of an assessment you will know things like what motivates an employee, how they learn, their communication style and more. This allows you to be able to better empathize and understand why a particular situation is causing conflict or how their hardwiring may be clashing with another member of the team. Another benefit is that it will allow you to be able to provide targeted coaching around what both you and the employee can do to resolve the situation.
Practice active listening
Encouraging open communication has verbal and non-verbal components. Give your employees space and time to talk, let them speak their mind without interruption. Silence can be very valuable in getting an employee to open up and it lets them know that you want to hear what they have to say, that you aren’t just waiting for your turn to talk. When it is an appropriate time for you to respond, use active listening skills. An example of active listening would be something like “I understand that you feel very frustrated with your current workload as compared to your peers”. This statement has several parts of active listening within it. The first part is a verbal affirmation by saying “I understand”. Additional phrases that you can use would be “what I hearing is”, “I see”, “I know” or other forms of verbal affirmation. The second part of that statement is “you feel very frustrated”, which validates how the person feels about the situation and demonstrates your concern. Finally, the last part of the response paraphrases what you have been told and shows them that you heard them and understand what they’re trying to tell you. Active listening can also include asking open ended questions, disclosing similar experiences you have gone through to show an understanding of their situation and asking specific questions to get clarification about what they’re trying to share with you.
Don’t leave conflict unaddressed
Act quickly when presented with conflict, it has a toxic impact on any workplace and continue to escalate if left unchecked. Helping resolve the issue early can help make sure that there are no long-term negative consequences and that the negativity doesn’t spread throughout the workplace.
After you have worked with an employee or group to resolve a conflict you should follow up. Checking in will make sure that progress has been made and that the employees have been able to move past the event. If the conflict is still lingering you may want to bring in HR or an outside party to help you address the situation and figure out another method of conflict resolution.