Workplace conflict comes with the territory. In any setting where different personalities are required to work together, you expect disagreements to arise. However, this doesn’t mean that petty disagreements should be allowed to grow unabated. Disagreements can be caused by opposing personalities, power struggles, role conflict, ego and pride, and performance discrepancies among other issues.
The Cost of Workplace Conflict
Leadership and conflict will always go hand in hand and as an effective manager, it is your duty to ensure disagreements are solved early before they blow up in your face. To lead effectively, you have to understand all pertinent issues around a conflict in order to resolve it. For starters, it is imperative to appreciate how conflict can bring down your business.
Take a look at some consequences of unresolved workplace disagreements:
- Toxic workplace environment: Nothing is as frustrating as managing workers who can’t even talk to each other. Such an environment is plagued by gossip and sabotage. During flare-ups, your workers might end up in blows ruining the reputation of your business.
- Low productivity: An employee who is at the center of a conflict will not perform optimally. Every moment they walk to the office, they imagine eyes on them and this affects their morale. Worse still, conflicts in the workplace lead to blame shifting, finger pointing and all this affects productivity.
- Financial cost: Workplace disagreements are costly. A 2008 study by CPP. Inc. who publish the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument shows that employees spend almost 3 hours weekly solving conflicts, which approximates to $359 billion in paid hours. A lot of time is wasted on conflicts and resolution efforts.
There are other results of workplace conflict including violence, attrition, lawsuits and health problems among other problems. In essence, you have to take a leading role in conflict resolution because when resolved professionally conflict can even be a blessing for your office.
Tips for Conflict Management
While conflict management is not the most pleasant role in your job description, it has to be done to create a trustworthy environment. To do this effectively, here are some tips to help you through:
1. Appreciate that Workplace Disagreements are Inevitable
This is the principle that will guide you to successful conflict management. You don’t have to hit the roof when you realize a team is not working together. Instead, remove yourself from the situation and appreciate this can be in fact a Godsend to learn more about your employees and the problems they are encountering. The best offices are not necessarily the ones without conflict, but the ones where these disagreements are solved constructively.
2. Solve the Conflict Early
As a manager, you might find it tempting to procrastinate in conflict resolution. It is easier to imagine a phony harmonious work environment than approach your staff about a conflict. This is the greatest pitfall for a manager because such conflicts can bring the company to its knees. If team members are sabotaging each other, your project will go down the drain. It is important to act immediately you notice acrimony between your staff.
3. Enhance Communication
In any workplace conflict, you will realize that lack of communication is a major player. When workers are shouting at each other, logic is thrown out of the window and when no one is listening to the other things quickly get out of control. Encourage communication between the disagreeing employees by talking to each alone and then having them meet. The idea is to get a middle ground where no one feels as the winner but everyone goes back to work happier. Your office should always be open to your employees to encourage free sharing of ideas.
4. Maintain Professionalism
Some conflicts can be personal and when solving them, you need to maintain a professional approach. You must respect the divergent views from your employees as opposed to shoving your opinion down the throat. If the disagreement is with your office, don’t harass or intimidate your staff. Instead, play above board and you will earn the respect of your staff. If you handle disagreements in the office professionally, your employees will find it easier to come to you and this will avoid a toxic work environment.
5. Leverage Conflict as an Opportunity
If your team has become totally divided, take this as an opportunity rather than as a chance to start sacking members. A team building session away from the office can help everyone release the pent-up tension. They will open up without any fear of and the ideas gathered here can be used to improve working conditions. A conflict can turn out to be a great opportunity, but this will only work if you are ready to accommodate new ideas.
6. Solve a Conflict and Move On
Once a conflict has been resolved, you need to put it behind you. If you dwell on past issues, it creates an atmosphere of fear, which again affects productivity.
Conflict management is an integral part of organizational management. It is important to let every employee understand their role in the organization, foster communication and always respect your employees’ point of view. This helps you to resolve conflict more constructively.