Even if you’re a master of interpersonal relationships, conflict in the workplace is bound to arise from time to time. Whether there’s poor morale, bad leadership, or an over-stressed team, conflict resolution at work can be a necessary tool to keep in your back pocket.
Conflict resolution at work is important for every manager to be able to manage. Unfortunately, not all can. Conflict resolution is an important leadership quality, but if you find your boss isn’t up for the task, you may be needed to step in and help out. Here are some effective strategies and workplace conflict management tools:
You won’t make much progress with conflict resolution at work if you don’t address the human component. Sure everyone wants to be done with the arguing and get back to the task at hand, but when dealing with personnel, you have to get personal. Validate the frustrations of the players involved, even if you don’t necessarily agree with them. There will be no resolution if each party doesn’t feel heard and respected. Buy-in is needed in order for confrontation to ease, so start with recognizing what emotions are being expressed.
Communication is critical when dealing with conflict resolution at work. Ensure you’re communicating gently and respectfully so that colleagues don’t feel the need to become defensive. Speak from your own perspective utilizing “I” statements rather than blaming statements that call out the others’ behaviors. If you’re leading the conflict resolution, ensure you’re hearing all sides fairly and without making too many judgments. This can be difficult and may even seem counterproductive, but in order to get past the overwhelm of emotion, you have to bypass some logical thinking.
One of the sharpest and nuanced workplace conflict management tools is recognizing the conflict is an opportunity for growth. Disagreements can often lead to big strides in overall development. Problems can be solved now that they’re identified. Disagreements at work can also lead to stronger bonds between once-conflicting team members. Through the resolution process, allowing each person to understand each other can lead to a closer relationship in which trust is built.
While you don’t necessarily want to run into a conflict screaming for an urgent resolution – as that may add to the stress of the situation – you do want to act quickly. This means not letting things fester over periods of time where resentment can build, not letting passive-aggressive communication take over, and not letting the fuel of the conflict gets stronger and stronger. Bring all related parties into the fold as soon as you recognize an issue so that it can be fixed without escalation.
It’s important that employees understand where the line is and what’s expected of them. You might think this is common knowledge, but workplace conflict might be the indicator that it isn’t. Don’t let ambiguity get in the way of your team moving forward. Be clear about how disagreements are expected to be handled moving forward and what consequences may be for inappropriate behaviors.
Conflict resolution at work can be overwhelming for many, but if you have the leadership skills to respectfully and calmly bring others to a sense of acceptance or understanding, you can take the lead regardless of your management status. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding if you need help with conflict at work or with some training for leaders at your company.