6 Tips to Manage and Resolve Conflicts in the Workplace - Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

On average, we spend about 90,000 hours of our lives at work, i.e., one-third of our lifetime!

If you think about it, our workplaces are practically our second homes. Imagine coming to that home feeling uninspired, demotivated, and unhappy!

That’s what a workplace conflict can do to employees and everyone around them. These conflicts can escalate and become bigger problems when ignored or unresolved for a long time. Your employees might lose interest in work, which can hamper productivity. The worst case—you might lose your top employees over a conflict stemming from a minor issue!

Conflicts are a normal aspect of a workplace, and they’re bound to happen. You cannot always prevent the unforeseen, but manage and resolve it well when it happens!

How to handle workplace conflicts effectively

When people from different ethnicities, cultures and thought processes join forces, it’s natural for them to have different outlooks on the same problem. These different perspectives can be a really good thing for a healthy workspace where everyone can openly express their views and learn from each other.

However, if not handled well, it could result in resentment, damaged work relationships, and a toxic workplace environment.

Here are some ways to approach a workspace conflict and nip it in the bud before it spreads like wildfire!

1. Opt for a face to face conversation

We know it’s easier to call in a Zoom meeting and get done with things in this digital age! But understand that you cannot expect to resolve the conflicts in a 30 minute virtual meeting and tick off that task from your to do list.

It’s not as simple as that!

Face to face conversations can have a more positive response from employees over emails or virtual meetings.

  • They feel motivated to comply with requests made face to face
  • They develop more trust in you
  • They feel heard and empathized with
  • They’re relieved that their employee prioritizes their mental health

2. Listen to both sides of the story

Like any other business meeting, the rule of thumb is—always go prepared!

Before the meeting, have a general idea of the agenda of the meeting and the surface level specifics of the meeting—which parties are involved, the cause of conflict, and how big it is. It’ll give you a headstart for taking this meeting in a positive direction.

Give both parties a fair chance to speak and present their case. Summarize each party’s case to let them know your understanding. Also, reassure them that you’ll never disclose anything discussed in the meeting room!

Employee & manager conflict

What if the other party in the conflict is you, and it’s between you and your employee? If that is the case, don’t let your position and superiority do the talking.

  • Approach it with your self awareness button on
  • Let them know that you’re open to suggestions and improvement
  • Call them out whenever they’re wrong and calmly put your point
  • Seek the help of a mediator (co manager or HR department) to have a fair set of eyes on the matter

3. Evaluate the situation calmly

Some conflicts may not be very complex and can be quickly resolved in a meeting. For example, if an employee is stressed about a task they find tough and is not getting adequate help, it’s in your hand to quickly resolve this by arranging training or support.

However, in some instances, when the issue is too big to resolve in one go, you need to introspect on it more. Take a step back, recall everything discussed in the meeting, and process the information. This might be a good chance to dig deeper into the issue and know what other employees feel about it.

While you do that, do ponder upon these questions.

  • What is the root cause of the problem?
  • Is there a party solely responsible, or is it a mutual misunderstanding?
  • Do these parties have any kind of similarities or common grounds that they can work on together? For example, a shared work goal or a common point of concern.

4. Understand how you can make this situation better

Often the biggest conflicts are rooted in task and workplace management issues.

This includes issues like:

  • Unclear assignments
  • Disagreement over dividing up resources
  • Differences in opinion over a workplace policy
  • Unrealistic deadlines
  • Work overload
  • Difficult in managing workplace expectations

These may look like simple issues to resolve, but often they result from a deep-rooted problem. For example, if an employee dislikes another, they might feel tempted to overburden that employee with work. Similarly, professional rivalry can cause disagreement between employees, sometimes even for trivial reasons.

This is where you come in with your superpower of building a positive workplace culture.

Focus on employee engagement

Engaged employees are the happiest employees! Follow this mantra to bring in team-building exercises that can help them work together and see the bigger picture beyond personal conflicts.

  • Keep the workflow as transparent as possible, so they have no confusion about their role in a project and how they contribute toward their organization’s goal
  • Always make it a point to convey the organization’s values and goals beforehand
  • Reward the top employees for their excellent work, so others also feel motivated to give their best
  • Establish an effective channel of communication
  • Conduct regular rounds of surveys to check on your employees—how they’re doing and what you can do to make them feel more engaged
  • Provide them with opportunities to upskill and identify areas of improvement via training and seminars

Invest in scheduling apps

The best way to bring transparency to the work process is by scheduling things properly and reducing redundancy. This holds true, especially when you need both in-house and contractual staff to help you organize an event and you’re managing them all single-handedly. In this case, investing in an app for scheduling event staff would be a good choice!

This way, you’ll know the task assigned to each employee and their work hours, leaving any scope for confusion around tasks and responsibilities.

Conduct conflict resolution training

Now, this may seem like a stretch at the moment, but it’s an excellent way to prevent future conflicts or at least reduce their impact. Train them to disagree respectfully and give and receive constructive criticism well.

Discuss the common issues conflicts arise and the best practices to resolve them among themselves. After all, it’s best if they talk it out and shake hands without escalating it!

Moreover, your employees will know how much you care.

5. Offer neutral perspective and suggestions

Remember, when you have the authority to resolve a workplace conflict, it’s crucial that you don’t judge based on the personalities of your employees. Make sure your judgment is purely based on the actions and events of the conflict.

  • Don’t think about what you like or don’t like about the other persons involved
  • DO NOT ask a person to change who they are fundamentally
  • Never criticize anyone while offering a resolution
  • Keep your resolution around the issue and not the person

The way forward is to brainstorm potential solutions together and mutually settle on a solution.

  • First, throw in every idea everyone at the table can come up with without overthinking its impact
  • Shortlist the best ideas and discard the rest
  • Discuss each idea and know how both parties feel about it
  • Come up with one solution for each program discussed in the meeting
  • Be very explicit about the action plans for each party involved and how they can go about it

6. Follow up to see how things are

As discussed earlier, conflict resolution isn’t an affair of one meeting, and it could take multiple sessions to address one complex issue. So, don’t turn your back once you’ve sent off everyone with a solution and action plan.

You need to ensure that they’re working on their action plans and are experiencing some progress. You may need to regularly catch up with them and conduct a couple of exercises to ensure they don’t have any unresolved issues.

If a party is not following the agreed-upon action plans, understand what’s stopping them. Ask them if they need additional help in the matter.

If things still don’t seem to improve despite following the action plans, it’s time to seek professional help—perhaps take it to HR, a life coach, or a conflict management company!

To sum it up

Workplace conflicts are the most normal thing about a workplace. You cannot always avoid being in an ugly, uncomfortable feud of differences. More importantly, you cannot leave a conflict unresolved as it could lead to bigger problems down the line!

The only thing that can make a huge difference is how you handle it and help the involved parties overcome the situation. After all, that’s the sign of a true leader!

PPS Admin

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