No matter how tight-knit and professional your company is, the potential for workplace conflict to break out is always present — especially during times of high stress.
In fact, a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that over 40% of HR professionals reported a heightened level of workplace conflict and volatility in the year 2020.
While it’s impossible to completely eradicate conflict from the workplace, there are a number of steps you can take to help manage and resolve these disputes in a productive manner. In this article, we will explore some of the most effective methods for managing and resolving workplace conflict.
Let’s get into it!
Conflict in the workplace: how does it happen?
Conflict in the workplace can arise for a variety of reasons. It might be a personality clash between two people, or a disagreement about how to do something. It can even be sparked by something as small as a difference of opinion.
Some of the most common causes of workplace conflict are:
- Differing opinions
- Power struggles
- Personal issues spilling over into work
- Bullying or intimidation
- Organizational changes
- Work overload
- Boredom or frustration with the job
The negative impacts of workplace conflict
Even if a disagreement has insignificant or trivial origins, it can quickly become a problem in the workplace. In-company conflict causes issues like:
- Decreased productivity as individuals focus on their differences instead of the task at hand
- Missed deadlines due to disagreements slowing down work or entire teams working at cross-purposes
- Lower morale as team members butt heads and workplace relationships sour
- Mistrust and hostility when conflict is not addressed or resolved in a productive way
- Damaged reputations when disagreements become public
All of these consequences can lead to an overall decrease in the effectiveness and efficiency of a company, as well as decreased employee satisfaction and even higher staff turnover rates.
For this reason, addressing conflict in a constructive way is key to maintaining a productive and positive work environment.
So, how can you practice successful conflict resolution?
Workplace conflict prevention
It’s important to know how you can resolve office conflicts, but in the ideal world, the conflict would be stopped in its tracks before it had the chance to reach breaking point.
So, before we dive into conflict resolution strategies — how can you create a productive environment that is not conducive to conflict in the first place?
Prioritize employee satisfaction
Happy employees are less likely to engage in conflict, as they are content with their work and their surroundings. A study by the University of Oxford found that happy employees are 13% more productive than their unhappy counterparts.
Communication is key to preventing conflict, as it allows for issues to be aired and dealt with before they have a chance to fester. When employees feel comfortable communicating with their managers and colleagues, it builds trust and creates an open environment.
Foster a team mentality
Creating a team mentality in the workplace can help to prevent conflict from arising. When employees feel like they are part of a team, they are more likely to be supportive of one another and less likely to engage in conflict.
A diverse workplace is a healthy workplace, as it encourages different points of view and allows for different perspectives to be heard. This can help to prevent conflicts from arising, as employees will be more understanding of one another’s viewpoints.
Regularly seek feedback
Encourage employees to give feedback to their managers on a regular basis. This will help to ensure that any issues or concerns are addressed early before they have a chance to escalate.
Establish rules and expectations
Make sure that all employees are aware of the company’s rules and expectations, especially with regards to complaint and conflict resolution procedures. This will help to ensure that everyone is aware of their rights and responsibilities, and knows how to resolve any conflicts in a fair and respectful manner.
Resolving workplace conflict for a more productive environment
If you’ve ever worked in an office, you’ve no doubt experienced conflict firsthand. It can be disruptive and unpleasant, and it can seriously impact workplace productivity.
So, how do you deal with conflict in the workplace?
Let’s go through some of the best tried-and-true conflict resolution methods.
The best way to deal with conflict is to address it early on before it has a chance to fester. If you see that a conflict is brewing, try to talk to the people involved as soon as possible.
This can be difficult if the situation is already tense, but it’s always worth trying to resolve the conflict peacefully. By addressing the issue head-on, you can prevent it from becoming bigger and causing more damage.
Empathize with both sides of the disagreement
When resolving a conflict, it’s important to try to see things from both sides. You need to understand what each person is feeling and why they are upset.
This isn’t always easy, but it can help you find a solution that satisfies everyone involved. By understanding the root of the conflict, you can work to resolve it in a way that doesn’t cause further damage.
Be willing to compromise
In order for a conflict resolution process to be successful, both sides need to be willing to compromise. This doesn’t mean giving in completely or conceding defeat, but rather finding a middle ground that everyone can agree on.
This might take some time and effort, but it’s worth it in the end. When both sides feel like they’ve won something, the conflict is less likely to cause further problems down the road.
Use a problem-solving approach
When resolving a conflict, it’s important to take a problem-solving approach. This means looking at the situation from all angles, assessing the possible solutions, and then choosing the one that is most likely to work.
This can be difficult when emotions are running high, but it’s essential if you want to find a lasting solution. By taking the time to think things through, you’ll be able to come up with a plan that everyone can live with.
Stay calm and positive
When dealing with a conflict, it’s important to stay calm and positive. Yelling, name-calling, and other forms of intimidation will only make things worse.
Instead, try to maintain a constructive dialogue. This will not only help you resolve the conflict but will also show your colleagues that you’re capable of handling difficult situations in a mature and professional manner.
Conflict resolution examples
It’s easy enough to read the above points and take note of the strategies, but how can you put them into practice? Let’s go through some examples of common workplace conflicts and how you can resolve them:
1. You and a colleague have different ideas about how to complete a project.
In this situation, it’s important that you both take the time to listen to each other’s points of view. Understand why your colleague prefers their approach and see if there is any merit to their argument.
If you still disagree, try to come up with a solution that incorporates both of your ideas. This could mean taking turns implementing each suggestion or compromising on certain aspects of the project.
2. You feel like you’re constantly being micro-managed by your boss.
If you feel like you are being controlled in an unprofessional way, it’s best to schedule a meeting with your boss to discuss your concerns. This will allow you to be upfront and communicate clearly.
Explain how micro-management is making it difficult for you to do your job and offer some solutions, such as regular check-ins or setting specific deadlines. Be prepared to listen to their point of view and be willing to compromise on certain issues.
3. You and a colleague are constantly arguing about who does more work.
In this situation, you need to start tracking the time you spend on each task. This will give you a better idea of who is actually doing more work.
If it turns out that your colleague is doing more than their fair share, talk to them about it and see if they’re willing to take on a smaller workload. If not, you may need to start delegating some of your tasks to other people in the office.
Note: if this conflict arises purely for the sake of competition, it is best not to use the time tracking technique, as it will only fuel the argument.
These are just a few examples, but they are models of balanced and fair conflict resolution that you can base your own strategies on in future conflicts.
Conflict resolution is a skill everyone should learn, regardless of their occupation. The ability to calmly and effectively communicate with others, especially during difficult times, can be the difference between an amicable resolution and an all-out war.
By following the tips provided in this article, you can create a more productive work environment for yourself and your colleagues that is conflict-free and primed for success!