Conflict in the workplace is very common and can be a learning experience if handled properly. Here is a guide on how to handle conflict at work.
Workplace conflict is inevitable when different personalities and backgrounds work together. Some types of conflict drive innovation and productivity, while others can affect employee morale.
Depending on the situation, conflicts can escalate and have a negative impact on the company’s bottom line. Many times, they lead to bullying, layoffs, project failure, and increased turnover.
As a manager or team leader, it’s your responsibility to figure out how to handle conflict in the workplace. The key is to create a culture of open communication and know when to step in.
Not All Conflict Is Bad
First, make sure you can differentiate between positive and negative conflict.
Positive conflict often promotes healthy competition in the workplace and can serve as a catalyst for change. It also raises questions, which may lead to better decision-making.
Moreover, it encourages innovation and prevents stagnation.
For example, if your employees have different solutions to a problem and cannot reach an agreement, you can use this situation to foster creative thinking.
Ask them to brainstorm ideas and implement the best ones on a smaller scale. This will allow them to express themselves and think outside the box.
Negative conflict, on the other hand, can affect a company’s culture and bottom line. In the long run, it may increase turnover and hinder work performance.
The annual cost of negative conflict is about $360 billion per year.
This type of workplace conflict is typically characterized by poor communication and misunderstandings. Many times, it involves threats, shaming, and inaccurate statements. It also tends to escalate rapidly, leading to insults, harassment, or bullying.
Determine the Source of Conflict
Successful managers can handle conflict in any of the above situations. They listen to what each party is saying and get the facts straight before making a decision. Here is a roadmap to follow in these situations.
First, try to determine the source of conflict. Discuss with all parties, ask questions, and identify the needs that are not being met.
Note that workplace conflict often stems from poor communication.
Sometimes, it can be due to personality clashes or differences in work styles. Once you have identified the cause, encourage both parties to share their thoughts in an open manner.
Discuss, Don’t Debate
Discuss with all parties involved in the conflict without being judgmental or debating who’s right and who’s wrong. At this point, what matters most is to understand the situation so you can decide on the next steps.
Try to find common areas of agreement before going any further.
For example, your employees might not agree on the best solution to a problem. However, they may have similar opinions about the tools needed to get things done.
Find Common Ground
No matter how hard you try, you cannot please everyone. The best thing you can do is to help your employees come to a solution that works for everyone to some degree.
Afterward, determine the role each party has in solving the conflict. Schedule future meetings to continue the discussion and see where things are heading. Remain neutral and maintain a collaborative attitude.
Discover the Best Ways to Handle Conflict in the Workplace
Good managers don’t ignore workplace conflict.
Instead, they encourage open dialogue and let their employees engage in healthy debates. They also focus on creating an environment that fosters teamwork and communication.
Remember, workplace conflict isn’t inherently bad. In some situations, it can provide tremendous opportunities for growth and innovation. How you handle conflict is what makes the difference.
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