Workplace conflict is inevitable when employees of various backgrounds and different work styles are brought together for a shared business purpose. Conflict in the workplace will increase, not decrease. And the great workplaces of the future will be the ones that 1) lead the way in managing internal conflict via consultative, consensus-building approaches to decision-making, and 2) invest in the professional development of their people, equipping them with the core skills to manage conflict effectively on their own.
Leaders must act responsibly to be respected. While conflict is a normal part of any social and organizational setting, the challenge of conflict lies in how one chooses to deal with it. Concealed, avoided or otherwise ignored, conflict will likely fester only to grow into resentment, create withdrawal or cause factional infighting within an organization.
Try doing the following when the tension starts building up:
- Have the employees who are in conflict with each other sit and talk about the issue at hand and be open without judgement about what the problems are but make sure that it does not spin out of control. It should be at a place and time where it can be resolved without interruptions. Explain to the two conflicting employees that is the time to focus on the problem and not blame or attack each other;
- Make sure that the conversation stays on topic and that each employees point is listened to and is respected. Use phrasing like “when this happens …” and not “when you do…”. Be sure to describe specific events and not generalize the problem;
- Identify points of agree and disagreement. Work on a plan to resolve the areas of disagreement until all parties are satisfied;
- Prioritize the areas of conflict;
- Develop a plan to resolve future similar conflict that may occur. Focus on how the conflict resolution can be improved;
- Follow through, once agreeable terms have been decided, Stick to it. Otherwise the problem will only get worse;
- Build on the success. Look for opportunities to point out progress. By creating genuine harmony in the office, employees will want to sort out any tense situations because they enjoy their job and office space.
Try to keep the following in mind when dealing with conflict:
- Focus on behavior and events not personalities;
- Pick the right time to jump in, sometimes small conflicts can resolve themselves but other times it is best to nip it in the bud.
- Know your boundaries. If you don’t know the limitations and boundaries of your employees, then conflict can become uncontrollable. Everyone deals with conflict differently so make sure you know the risks and rewards within the boundaries of each employee. Help other know when they tend to cross the line through careful observation;
- Try to get employees to respect each other’s differences but also try to see it from their point of view;
- Leaders who actively engage in coaching and learning about those in their teams will see that conflict comes up much less.
- Make sure that you have listened to both sides of the story and be sure to keep emotions aside.
- Anticipate the problem but don’t go overboard. If you see something that might cause a problem, then try to casually work on it before it becomes an issue;
- Provide guidance. Sometimes the conflict is in such a way that someone is needed to guide the conversation and keep the reigns so that it does not spin out of control.