Eager to crack the code on how to deal with conflict at work effectively?
Whether you manage a small or a large team, a conflict between your employees can derail the productivity of your entire department. If your employees truly care about what they do, there will be conflict. You don’t just want “yes people.”
Although you expect your employees to be grown adults and manage their issues on their own, there are times when it is advantageous for a leader to step in and handle the situation.
Although you may feel that it is not your place, you should understand that it is a leader’s job to handle conflict in an appropriate way to upkeep a good corporate culture and promote positive teamwork.
Let’s take a quick look at 3 ways to help you manage conflict and then some techniques that you can use.
Create A Safe Place
Oftentimes, conflict arises out of miscommunication.
There are office politics in every workplace, and employees often feel scared to voice their opinion, lest it affect their employment.
However, effective managers must understand that employees must be given a safe space to state their beliefs and opinions without fear of being reprimanded.
This will allow those that work for you the time and space to have open communication and resolve their differences in a positive way.
Focus on “I” Statements
During conflict, people’s feelings are often hurt and they tend to assign blame to other parties.
A conversation is not very productive when it’s focused on another person.
This is why managers should teach their employees to speak about their feelings, instead of assuming things about others.
When a person is able to say: “I was hurt when you said I didn’t know how to complete a project,” it lets them be humble and show their true selves to others.
This is much better than saying: “You were so rude when you said I didn’t know how to complete a project.”
A simple rephrasing of a similar idea can do the trick and help two or more people resolve their issues.
Find Common Ground
The truth is that it’s not often possible to get two people to agree on a mutual solution, or get one person to admit their mistakes to another person.
However, with the management’s help, employees can agree that they must resolve the conflict in order to work together in a positive environment.
Leaders can work with their employees to find common ground within the conflict, such as some areas that both parties can agree on, even if they cannot agree on the bigger idea.
When helping employees ultimately agree that they are on the same team, they will find ways to either agree to disagree or move forward in a professional manner.
Conflict resolution is a set of skills that can be learned.
Firstly we’ll look at how you can understand the conflict through effective listening skills, then we’ll look at ways to deal with it.
Improve your Listening Skills
By listening actively, you show a level of understanding of the situation without casting judgment. You are also able to identify the emotions that have brought about the situation in the first place.
People in conflict often get emotional, so your role is to see through the emotions by really listening to the real issues, rather than the person’s opinions or judgements.
Your responses should be made up of two parts:
(1) naming the feeling that the other person is conveying, and
(2) stating the reason for the feeling.
Here are some examples of active-listening statements:
Notice that you just state the facts, as you see it, rather than judging the feeling.
Remember, actively listening is not the same as agreement. It is a way of demonstrating that you intend to hear and understand another’s point of view.
The benefits of doing this…
It feels good when another person makes an effort to understand what you are thinking and feeling.
Restating what you’ve heard, and checking for understanding, promotes better communication and produces fewer misunderstandings.
Responding with active listening has a calming effect in an emotional situation.
Managing the conflict
I’m sure you’ve seen conflicts escalate and cause even more problems, so what can you do to heighten your chances of dealing with conflict?
Before you can decide upon a conflict management strategy, you must ask yourself three main questions:
1. Who is involved in the conflict at hand? Are they individuals, teams, departments, or a combination of each?
2. Why are these individuals or groups in conflict with each other? Is it personal or professional?
3. How serious is the conflict? Is it brewing just under the surface, is it growing in intensity, or does it need immediate attention?
There are a myriad of ways to deal with conflict, but here are a few of my favorites:
Avoid the conflict.
It seems as though this is not a strategy at all, but if you are consciously monitoring a conflict while avoiding it, you’ll be able to intervene if it becomes necessary.
Avoidance tends to work very well if two employees are involved in a simple disagreement and are likely to come to their own conclusions without help.
Find a compromise.
Meet with both parties, understand their points of view, and figure out what each one can give up in order to make the other happy. Each should find the resolution to be palatable in some way, shape, or form.
They will each be forced to stand down on some issues while maintaining their positions on others, but no one person will be forced to completely give up on his or her ideas.
Stage a confrontation.
Confrontations can be scary and stressful, but sometimes allowing all parties involved in a conflict to air their views is enough to make the conflict go away.
Everyone involved will have to verbalise their positions and reasoning. This gives each participant enough information to come to and agree upon a logical conclusion.
Confrontation should be used carefully, however, as some individuals will perceive the situation as a personal attack and walk away feeling hurt.
Being able to identify and resolve conflict will allow you to keep your organisation running as smoothly as possible. You’ll be able to control the situation and while making sure your projects are completed despite the setbacks conflicts sometimes cause!
Managing conflict within your team is not just an occasional task; it’s an ongoing part of effective leadership.
Updated on: 21 September, 2023
Originally published: 31 August 2018
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