There are many effective ways to resolve conflict in the workplace, but the most effective way of all is to prevent it from happening in the first place. When there’s conflict in the workplace, it can lead to tension and frustration, and it can affect other people who aren’t even involved in the conflict. It’s probably not possible to avoid conflict from ever developing, but here are a few tips for the prevention of conflict in the workplace.
1) Respectful Communication
People who work together typically spend a huge chunk of their day together, sometimes even more time than they spend with their families. Organizations need to encourage a culture of open and respectful communication and any hint of disrespect, bullying or hostility needs to be nipped in the bud. Managers should make it a priority to work on team building, because promoting good teamwork can lead to more productivity, innovation and job satisfaction.
2) Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities
Conflict can happen when communication isn’t clear and coworkers aren’t sure of the responsibilities of each individual. Team members may end up devoting time to the same project and this kind of overlap may lead to time spent in a nonproductive way. Confusion and miscommunication can lead to a tense work environment, and team members may blame each other for failing to meet deadlines. That’s why it’s important to use project management tools to clearly track who is doing what and to avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding about everyone’s roles. When leaders clearly define the roles and responsibilities of each team member, it can help to prevent this type of conflict.
3) Encourage Employees to Work Together
Encourage clear and frequent communication among team members. This can help to build trust and make sure everyone is on the same page. Create a work environment where staff members are encouraged to work together. You can be creative with this. For instance, you might design a photo wall mixing popular quality photos with employee personal or family photos, creating a friendly atmosphere. This can increase employee engagement and help team members get to know each other better.
4) Provide Ongoing Training
It’s a good idea to provide ongoing training opportunities that include topics like having difficult conversations, giving and receiving feedback, and de-escalation skills. Giving team members these types of tools can do wonders for preventing conflict from happening in the first place. Also, when staff members understand company policies against any type of discrimination, it may help to prevent such problems from happening. While the hope is that there won’t be any of these types of problems, it’s important for all employees to know who to contact within the organization if they’re a victim of any form of discrimination or harassment.
5) Encourage Positivity and Humor
Even though the workplace is a place for working toward business goals, it doesn’t have to be gloomy and serious all the time. Project an upbeat disposition and encourage positive attitudes and some light, appropriate humor, if that’s aligned with your personality. While we don’t want to brush off problems or bury our heads in the sand when conflicts do arise, lightening the mood regularly may help to prevent conflicts. When team members know it’s ok to relax and have fun while on the job it can increase productivity and camaraderie.
6) Resolve Conflict Early
The above efforts to prevent conflict can reduce the number or intensity of problems that may happen at work. But sooner or later, conflict is still likely to occur. While leaders may not need to intervene at the first sign of trouble, it’s important to not allow conflicts to fester and worsen. Conflicts that are ignored end up making people less productive and demoralized.
Leaders should be ready to step in if necessary and listen to the different perspectives of those in conflict. Work together to brainstorm solutions and find a way to return to a peaceful work environment. If it doesn’t seem possible for team members in conflict to work out their differences, HR may have to get involved, or consider having a professional conflict resolution expert step in as a mediator.
Whether you’re dealing with a current conflict or considering training to prevent future conflicts, reach out to the workplace conflict resolution experts at Pollack Peacebuilding today.