Strategies to Manage Workplace Conflict Effectively
Conflict is a part of the everyday work environment. Having a varied group of people, who have different personalities, all working in the same organisation, possibly under stress, can cause a certain amount of disruption for a leader, a team or the entire organisation. A conflict can arise within an organisation due to many reasons including :
Incomplete, incorrect or ambiguous data
Numerous levels of reporting that end up distorting information and delaying processes
Weak or autocratic management style
Cultural, social or personal differences
Inappropriate use of authority
Unfair perceptions, in terms of recognition and reward
Managing conflict is tricky. It’s about seeing opportunities that others don’t see. Until recently, workplace conflict was considered undesirable at many organisations. Now, conflict is viewed as both functional and dysfunctional. If the conflict resolution is seen as an opportunity, it can be not just a healthy enabler of growth for the organisation, but also a professional growth for all of the people involved.
To help sustain workplace momentum and create employee engagement, here are seven ways to manage conflict resolution at work
Being an HR manager, there are several ways you might respond to conflict in the workplace. When conflict arises, you could avoid it, and let the participants figure it out among themselves. This is not always the worst approach as the employees should eventually learn how to collaborate and resolve the conflict.
However, if the reason for avoiding conflict is personal, like feeling uncomfortable or not wanting to reprimand someone, you need to, as HR, find ways to deal with uncomfortable situations as soon as possible. Not doing so could result in unhealthy confrontation that will have an even worse impact on employee morale and on work itself.
Before conducting a formal meeting between the concerned employees, get both parties to agree to a few guidelines. You can do so by firstly, asking them to express themselves calmly and as unemotionally as possible. Secondly, have them agree to attempt to understand each other’s perspective. And lastly, inform them that if they violate the set guidelines, the meeting will be abruptly stopped.
Hear both sides
Give both parties a chance to share their side of the story in detail. Sometimes, getting everything on the table can reveal an easy solution that wasn't obvious earlier. As an HR professional or as their manager, you should consider giving them adequate space to voice their issues. Often, employees feel better just knowing they are being heard.
Choose a neutral location
One of the first steps to diffuse any conflict is to change the environment. An office is intrinsically a place of power, and can be considered least conducive to the conflict-management process. Suggest the meeting take place in a coffee house, or anywhere outside the office. Meeting in an open, impartial space will ensure that the concerned employees feel a sense of comfort, privacy, and freedom.
Respect and appreciate their differences
Once both participants have got things off their chest, try to look at the situation objectively and analyze how different opinions, approaches complement one another. Rather than imposing your influence, hierarchy or rank, respect the unique differences in people. By learning to see things from differing points of view, it will be easier to understand how to avoid conflict in the future.
If conflict between employees and departments is something that occurs frequently, then consider implementing a diversity program to help mitigate future conflicts. You can also bring in a consultant to help you create a program that will work best for your company.
Get both parties to buy into the solution
Find a solution that keeps the goals of your organisation in mind while satisfying both parties in conflict. When the employees are given an opportunity to participate in the problem-solving process, it gives them a sense of ownership in the solution. And, this drastically increases your chances of long-lasting success.
Think opportunistically, not punitively
While some conflicts are going to require consequences, most are just sparked by passionate people coming at a situation from different vantage points. The truth is that when conflicts arise, so does the opportunity to teach or learn. Being a manager, view these conflicts as a means to address the previously hidden problems within the team dynamics.
Conflict resolution isn't easy. Not all disagreements can be resolved. The winning tactic is to approach each situation in the right way. That can be done by giving both sides a chance to speak without fear of ridicule, by finding common ground and by including both employees in the process of developing a solution. With these strong and effective conflict management tactics, you'll have a much higher success rate in not just resolving, but also dissolving conflicts.