Conflict in the workplace can either cripple a company’s productivity, or serve as a conduit for enhanced performance. If approached correctly and mindfully, conflict has the potential to actually nurture a positive company culture.
Workplace misunderstandings and squabbles should always be faced head-on. Employers who attempt to quell possible conflict by ignoring it often suffer negative consequences. Nothing will be accomplished in the workplace by pretending dissension does not exist. Rather, by coming to terms with and developing a plan of action for said conflicts, employers can increase productivity and overall contentment for their employees.
Tips For Managing Conflict In The Workplace
1. Define behavioral expectations.
Clearly setting boundaries and expectations for your fellow coworkers helps create a positive workplace culture. People tend to be more successful when expectations are clearly outlined. Thus, by establishing a series of specific rules to adhere to, conflict can potentially be minimized and/or avoided. Assumptions only deter productivity — that’s why it’s important to be as specific as possible when it comes to establishing expectations.
2. Develop a plan of action.
Conflict in the workplace requires action. By developing a plan of action, you can solve the problem at hand and stifle the situation. This practice also sets a great example for your employees. If they see you care enough about the issue to take action, they’ll feel encouraged to then follow your lead and find other possible solutions.
Amy Lieberman, Executive Director of Insight Mediation and leading authority on workplace conflict, stresses that every company should focus on developing “conflict competency” skills in their managers and supervisors. While larger organizations may benefit from adopting dispute resolution polices which incorporate mediation of interpersonal conflict, all companies regardless of size can obtain the training and conflict coaching needed to prevent and resolve conflict.
3. Empathize and learn their language.
Everyone has a different way of communicating in the workplace, and it is the employer’s job to properly assess their needs and empathize with them as much as possible. By learning how the employee expresses himself or herself, the employer can adapt to that communication style, and effectively interact beyond surface level.
4. Pick your battles.
It is important to keep in mind that not every fight deserves attention. Look at the grand scheme of things, and determine whether a conflict in the workplace is worth bringing to light. It’s critical to ignore petty situations. Calling attention to unimportant issues may cause your employees to lose respect for you, especially if unwarranted drama arises because of it. However, if the issue is important enough, people will take necessary measures to resolve it. If you pinpoint a constant source of petty conflict in the workplace, it may be time to hold a frank discussion or terminate a toxic team member’s employment.
5. Act, don’t react.
It sounds intuitive, but thinking before speaking often slips through the cracks at work. Choose your words and actions carefully, and act accordingly — even if an employee might act in a way that’s frustrating or overtly confrontational. If you take the time to consider a situation and create a solution rather than letting your emotions overwhelm you, you’ll create a healthier and more welcoming environment for everyone.
When dealing with conflict in the workplace, remember to listen and learn. Just because someone’s opinion differs from yours doesn’t mean it is wrong. Dealing with conflict ultimately involves practice in empathy, patience, dedication, humility, and respect. Understand that overcoming challenges requires cooperation and compromise. It creates a healthy workplace environment that encourages dialogue and discourse. Open communication can increase efficiency and productivity, as well as foster a company culture that people will want to join.