How to Resolve Conflict in the Workplace as a Manager

Even if it is not a daily thing, conflict is going to happen from time to time in any workplace. Some conflicts are minor and can be worked out between the people in conflict, but other disputes intensify and affect not only the people in conflict but everyone around them. One of the many things people may disagree on is how to resolve conflict in the workplace as a manager.

Different managers may be at opposite ends of a spectrum with some managers attempting to avoid getting involved in disputes between team members and others jumping in at the first sign of trouble. The right approach depends on the situation but is probably somewhere between these two extremes.

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Warning Signs of Workplace Conflict

Effective leadership is a responsibility that involves developing, guiding and encouraging staff to work toward meeting their potential and to work together toward a common goal. To earn the respect of staff, managers need to be aware of what’s going on around them at all times and also need to take charge of challenges as needed, which sometimes involves addressing conflict.

Recognizing the warning signs of conflict may help you to address it early before it snowballs. Some things you may notice include:

  • Hostility or tension during meetings
  • Arguments
  • Decreased productivity
  • Excessive absenteeism
  • Cliques
  • Rising turnover

Turnover is sometimes triggered by dissatisfaction with how a manager is handling workplace conflict. Your staff expects you to handle disputes that are getting out of control. Ongoing conflict can’t be ignored, or you’ll soon find you’re in the middle of a toxic and stress-filled work environment. It may take some time and experience to recognize when it’s time to get involved. You definitely need to intervene when you know workplace conflict is affecting the performance and attitude of others who aren’t directly involved.

Addressing Workplace Conflict

Meet with the parties who are having difficulty getting past their differences. It’s best to meet with both at the same time so there’s no indication that you might be taking sides. Let each individual explain their side of the story without interruption. Listen carefully and ask questions. Taking notes can help you remember details so you can repeat back to each person on opposing sides what you’ve heard them say. Give them the opportunity to clarify if necessary.

Encourage brainstorming to find a solution that’s mutually agreeable. Each individual may be able to get part of what they want but may not get all of what they want. Schedule a follow-up meeting to make sure things are getting on track. Observe body language and facial expressions to look for signs of continuing tension or anger.

Getting Outside Help

The hope is that after having these discussions, the tension in the workplace starts to subside and the workplace becomes more peaceful. There are some cases when despite efforts to collaborate or compromise, things continue to intensify and those in conflict continue to be at odds. If that happens, you may have to involve your HR department to discuss disciplinary action.

Another option is to get in touch with an outside company that is specially trained in conflict resolution to act as a mediator. Sometimes involving an impartial third party can help to diffuse volatile disagreements.

As a manager, each conflict you face gives you a chance to learn more about how to resolve conflict in the workplace. It may also give you ideas on how to prevent similar situations from developing in the future.

If you’re looking for online workplace mediation services for a current conflict, get in touch with Pollack Peacebuilding Services today.

Valerie Dansereau

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