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Conflict in the Workplace

Posted On: 26/06/2018

A diverse mix of people working in an organisation is what makes a workplace unique. A successful company consists of employees with an array of talents, ideas, experiences and opinions; but it is these differences that can also lead to conflict. It’s natural for tensions to occur as it’s unlikely that colleagues will agree to the viewpoint of others all the time.

Conflict is not always a bad thing; healthy and constructive conflict between colleagues is a necessary component of a highly-functioning team. When the conflict is unhealthy, productivity slows down and it can be unsettling for others. It’s important that conflict is dealt with as soon as it is identified.

Conflict Management

Conflict Management is a skill involving the handling of confrontation constructively, efficiently and diplomatically without offending or alienating an employee.

There may be times when it is appropriate for the individuals concerned to practice conflict management themselves; this can be a great opportunity for the employees to develop their own conflict management skills.

In many conflict situations a manager must act as an intermediary; the role of the manager is to resolve the difference in a way that is respectful to all parties concerned and to limit the damage to the organisation.

Here are 11 steps to take to ensure a positive outcome:

  1. Understand your role as an intermediary and what is expected of you.
  1. Allow those involved in the conflict to tell their side of the story. Always arrange to speak in a place where you won’t be interrupted.
  1. Don’t let your emotions get in the way. Instead of focussing on an employee’s negative personality, focus on facts and events.
  1. Practice active listening and remain positive during conversations. Don’t interrupt while the other person is talking and ask questions if you are unsure what the individual is trying to tell you. At the end of the discussion, repeat the key points to ensure you have understood.
  1. Identify if the best approach is to speak to the individuals separately or together. If the initial discussions are held separately, it is good practice for the group to come together to decide and agree on the resolution.
  1. Take time out. It is not unreasonable to ask the employees to have some breathing space if the tension is extremely high. Having time to calm down can be a great time for an employee to reflect on their attitude.
  1. Identify the truth. Summarise the areas of agreement and disagreement and ask the individuals if they agree with your assessment. To reach a resolution it’s important that you make clear what the exact area of conflict is.
  1. Draw up an action plan once all the facts have been established.
  1. During further discussions, it is important that you focus on finding a solution.
  1. Follow through with the plan until a resolution has been found which is agreeable to all parties.
  1. Learn from the experience.

Prevention

As unhealthy conflict is damaging to a business through reduction in efficiency and morale, managers should continually demonstrate and encourage positive behaviours to ensure teams remain happy, productive and respectful of others. Employees will benefit from learning these skills to prevent future disputes.

Here are our top five behaviours that should be practiced in a workplace to prevent conflict.

  1. Remain open to the views of others.
  1. Keep communicating. If something is concerning you, speak out.
  1. Always listen carefully to others, and if you don’t fully understand something, ask a question to clarify your understanding.
  1. Focus on facts and events, not personalities.
  1. Don’t look to blame but encourage a solution.

How we can help

One of our sayings here at P3 People Management is ‘it’s always easier to manage situations when they’re nipped in the bud’, and in the case of conflict this is extremely important.

We provide immediate professional and practical employment advice and support over the phone and via email through our HR Advice Line.

If it’s necessary to provide on-site attendance (ad hoc or regular) to support you with complicated employee issues we’re happy to come to you too.

Get In Touch

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