8 effective ways to handle workplace conflicts

Conflict is a given possibility at every workplace, big or small. Being the leader, you have the responsibility of ensuring a working environment where everyone feels heard, included and valued.

A workplace is a miniature world in itself where you work with people from different racial and ethnic backgrounds, various mindsets and working styles. You, as a leader, want things to function in a particular manner. In such a case, conflict is inevitable as team members question each other’s beliefs.

You must deal with such obstacles in a calm, professional and efficient manner. You cannot ignore the workplace conflict and hope that it will fade away on its own, for even the smallest of things can blow up to something beyond proportion.

In this article, we shall talk about the culprits of conflict, types of conflict in organisations, conflict resolution in the workplace and conflict prevention. Whether you run a business, belong to the human resources department or are a recruitment agency helping companies out, this roadmap on conflict resolution can help you.

How can workplace conflicts occur?

Workplace conflict is possible in various situations: between two team members, teams, supervisors, as well as in between supervisors and team members. It is important to understand the different types of conflict in organisations. These could be of the following regarding:

  • Competitive positions
  • Ego
  • Jealousy
  • Compensation issues
  • Performance issues
  • Poor communication

Who are the mischief-makers?

Now, not everyone is a troublemaker but you need to make a note of those who are. Unresolved conflict leads to no creativity, productivity and collaboration as individuals and teams. Moreover, petty fights can cause unwanted factionalism within the organisation with resentment and withdrawal playing a role in it, making conflict resolution all the more important.

A leader, hence, must identify the members in their teams causing conflict and understand their pattern. Understanding people, what they want and how to deal with them helps with better conflict management and conflict resolution. so, always ask yourself this: how to resolve conflict in the workplace?

Why should you engage in conflict resolution?

When you have a conflict resolution process in place, it’s better to resolve it right away rather than letting it fester. An effective conflict resolution in the workplace depends on the understanding of all the parties to resolve their issues and focus on being better team members and performers.

As a leader, here’s how you must go about managing conflict in the workplace:

1. Talk about appropriate office behaviour

Remind the conflicting parties that they are mature individuals and must put forward their insights in a professional manner. Encourage honest team building, collaboration, talent management and leadership development yet under your authority. Define what constitutes proper office behaviour and what falls under workplace conflict, and what could be the consequences if they fail to comply with the conflict management and conflict resolution process.

2. Conflict has potential

Not all conflict is bad, as some can lead to new discussions, policies and development in the workplace. Look at disagreements as a path to path breaking discoveries to team productivity and leadership potential, and you will learn several new things in the process. Conflict is good as long as team members don’t hold on to their ego over the work at hand.

3. Resolve the issue

As a leader, one of the worst things you can do is to ignore the issue at hand. Seek out potential conflict resolution areas and intervene to prevent a blow-up situation in the first place. You will need to identify and understand these points and solve them in the first place.

If you observe strife between employees, ask them to have a healthy discussion and reach a solution. On the other hand, if there’s an issue between two different teams, encourage interdepartmental communication.

4. Hold a discussion

Talking things out is the best way to resolve conflicts, and you need a quiet place and ample time without possible interruptions. If you’re part of the conflicting party, let the other person voice their concerns. On the other hand, you need to manage both the parties if you’re a leader. Do not let a particular team monopolise the conversation or resort to blame shifting.

5. Listen carefully

Listening is important in a healthy conversation, and to understand the other person’s point of view is even more so. Ask questions if something does not make sense to you, ask the person to re-word their concerns in a manner that you understand. You must not react negatively even if they have negative opinions about you or your performance. Instead, the discussion must incorporate the objectives of both the conflicting parties and help them achieve their motives.

While conflict prevention is the best way out, sometimes a conflict brings out things that need to be said. In such a case, honest and patient communication really helps.

6. Forgiveness is key

Conflict resolution arises out of answering unmet needs or hurt feelings, and we must acknowledge that when having a conversation. Apologise when you should, and forgive when the other person does so. Don’t forgive for the sake of it, but truly get rid of the grudges that can lead to severe discord over time and ruin your team bonding.

7. Find something in common

Though the process of managing conflict in the workplace usually focuses on disagreements, there should be a positive takeaway as well. Share common instances of work and compliment them on something that they have handled in a complimentary manner. Looking for a common point demonstrates your desire to rebuild a rapport around the similarities.

8. Offer guidance

As a team leader, you have the authority to correct your employees in private. If you believe that one of the parties is at fault, ask them about their role in the conflict. It could be so that they are suffering from a personal situation that causes them to act in a certain manner. Talk to them about the key points in the conflict and advise them on how to handle it in a better manner. You must never take sides or favour a particular member or team, as you are simply there to mediate the conversation and ensure a conclusion that benefits all.

Conflict is a given possibility at every workplace, big or small. Being the leader, you have the responsibility of ensuring a working environment where everyone feels heard, included and valued. Hence, while it is important to understand that conflict is inevitable, it is also necessary that you have processes in place for conflict prevention, conflict management and conflict resolution.

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