So how can you intervene and manage workplace conflict effectively?
Workplace conflict is an unavoidable and inevitable part of running or managing a business and people. Each person has a variety of different opinions and emotions, originating from very different backgrounds. Conflict need not necessarily be a negative experience, and is normal and healthy in the workplace. Ignoring workplace problems can be costly and draining, as each unresolved issue can cause hours of non-productivity.
The skills of recognising, understanding and resolving issues promptly are vital to good leadership and HR practice, and without these skills an organisation can suffer. Strong and efficient conflict resolution can promote team members to feel safe to disagree and discuss issues, creating better problem solving and decision making. Otherwise, clashes can lead to poor employee retention and the loss of good talent.
Conflict can stem from a myriad of different situations and circumstances, such as competition among peers, emotions, incompatible goals or bad communication, to name a few. The challenge lies in learning how to deal with the problem.
Creating a definition for what constitutes acceptable behaviour is key within an organisation. Clear guidelines for decision making, best practices and talent management will help resolve issues before they arise. Clear guidelines of what is required of each individual and a chain of management responsible for issue resolution will create accountability and help avoid conflict. It’s also extremely useful to create HR documentation for the organisation, clearly stating what is and is not acceptable behaviour.
Confront Conflict Head-on
If you cannot prevent a conflict, it is most efficient to confront the problem head-on. Communication is key, and ensuring regular catch up meetings within the team and stakeholders will provide an opportunity to find problems and productively resolve them before they escalate – saving the organisation time.
Understanding a colleague’s point of view and building trust is important, before attempting to resolve an issue or lend an opinion. Too often people see disagreements as a personal attack. Helping fellow professionals can drastically reduce the amount of obstacles you face in future issues.
If a problem spirals into a workplace conflict, then it is vital that a resolution is provided, but choose ones that are appropriate and worth your time and effort. Encourage peers to manage their own issues, without pushing the problem up the organisational chain. This will create confidence that each conflict can be dealt with by the individuals concerned and at the level it arises.
Within each conflict is the opportunity to learn and share knowledge with colleagues, and to grow and develop. Good leaders and HR professionals seek opportunities in all differences of opinion. It is good practice to welcome discussion on tasks, strategies and goals and lessons learnt.
There is always a solution to be found, but there just has to be a will to find it. It is easy to misinterpret other people’s intentions. Compromising, forgiving, lending a sympathetic ear and thinking of the organisation above yourself will help to resolve problems. Effective leadership is vital to deliver consistent outcomes.
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