How To Resolve Conflict In The Workplace
Resolving conflicts in the workplace in an effective manner is essential for maintaining a healthy working environment and ensuring your team keeps working smoothly. Dealing with conflict badly can have damaging consequences and relationships within the team can fracture. As a result, a business's working environment could suffer from this.
On the other hand, workplace conflict situations that are well-handled can produce several benefits such as being able to:
- Identify faults in processes and communication channels.
- Work collaboratively to resolve issues.
- Create stronger, more cohesive teams and improve processes.
It’s therefore absolutely essential for a project manager or team leader to have strong conflict resolution skills so that any conflicts that emerge can be dealt with effectively and productively.
What leads to conflict?
Often, the root cause of conflict in the workplace is a breakdown in communications. Mistakes can be made when important information is miscommunicated or when instructions or expectations aren’t properly defined. Conflicts then arise over the consequences of these mistakes, such as missed deadlines or incomplete tasks.
Other causes of workplace conflict can stem from the work environment or interpersonal issues. Environmental causes include heavy workloads, poor management, unhealthy or unrealistic expectations, negative company culture, or a lack of training to effectively carry out tasks.
Interpersonal sources of conflict, meanwhile, can include unfair treatment by managers, opposing personalities within teams, or bullying and harassment. It’s important to be able to identify these problems when trying to resolve conflicts, as without addressing the issue at its root, you’ll soon find that conflict occurs again in the future.
How to resolve workplace conflicts effectively
Just as conflicts arise due to poor communication, effective communication is also usually the key to effectively resolving it. Because of this, you should always bear in mind the way you communicate when attempting to resolve conflict. With this in mind, you can use the following strategies to resolve workplace conflict.
1. Stay calm
It’s easy for tempers to run high when things go wrong, especially if there’s disagreement over why things went wrong or how to fix the problem. However, anger is unlikely to get anything done, and will only cause further problems in the long run. It’s therefore important to encourage people involved in a conflict to remain calm, aiming for a discussion rather than an argument.
Anger is an obstacle to effective conflict resolution, so it’s important to avoid it wherever possible. If conflicts frequently occur as a result of particular team members getting angry, then it may be worth considering giving the individuals in question some anger management training to create a more cohesive work environment.
2. Don’t compete, collaborate
It’s pointless trying to ‘win’ an argument during a conflict. At the end of the day, you and your colleagues are on the same team, so you should be working together towards a mutual victory. Rather than arguing about blame or who is right or wrong, focus on working with others to fix the problems at hand.
Once any immediate problems are out of the way, take the time to talk with the other people involved and discuss how things could be done differently in the future to avoid a repeat of the issue. Building this sense of cooperation will draw a line under the conflict and help avoid future conflicts as well.
During these conversations, you should also make sure you listen carefully. First, in order to properly take on board what the other person is telling you, and second, to make sure they feel you value what they tell you. Active listening techniques such as brief affirmations (I see, I understand, etc.) can help to keep you concentrated and let the other person know you’re listening.
3. Think about how you contact people about the conflict
Some methods of communication are more helpful than others when it comes to discussing and resolving conflicts. Written communication styles such as email or messaging software can often lead to further problems rather than solving anything. That’s why it can be easy to misinterpret somebody’s tone or intention when reading a message. As a result, this can lead to further miscommunications and friction.
This is why it’s better to talk face-to-face, whether in-person or over a video call. This means that everyone involved can pick up on important visual and audio context cues, such as body language or tone of voice, which make it easier to convey thoughts and feelings more accurately. Being able to see each other also creates a more personal connection, emphasizing that you’re working together to resolve the conflict.
4. Use neutral language
When discussing the conflict, it’s important not to give the sense that you’re assigning blame. Avoid pointed, accusatory language in the second person (you said x, or you did y wrong) and instead use personal language in the first person to explain your own perspective and ideas.
This doesn’t mean avoiding commenting on actions or mistakes directly — just doing it in a more sympathetic way. As another example, feedback should be given in terms of behaviors and actions rather than personalities. Giving actionable feedback on behaviors allows the person in question to inform their growth and development; criticizing their personality is likely to just create resentment, negative feelings and further conflict.
5. Incorporate lessons learned with goals and expectations
Through discussing the conflict, create an action plan going forward. Use what you’ve learned as a result of these conversations to decide how specific processes and lines of communication can be improved. This helps to draw a line under the conflict and create a positive, collaborative environment going forward in order to meet these set expectations and goals.
6. Encourage open communication and feedback culture
Once the conflict has been resolved, make sure that communication remains open and effective and encourage feedback. This helps employee relations stay healthy, while also allowing feedback and business ideas to flow freely throughout the company.
Allowing effective communication in this manner helps to keep the company working smoothly and continuously improves processes and can be an especially a powerful tool for avoiding conflict in the future.
Conflict resolution in the workplace is vital to keeping a company on track. Managing conflict productively can improve workplace processes and create cohesive, well-functioning teams, which in turn helps the company meet its organizational goals.
Because of this, it’s essential to have an effective conflict resolution process in place to manage these issues productively. At the heart of good conflict resolution is good communication - remember this, as well as the above strategies, and you’ll be able to solve the cause of the conflict in no time.
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