One of the biggest challenges faced by managers and employees is the management of conflicts that arise on the job. Majority of people choose to avoid the conflict as the Chinese says “多一事不如少一事“, which basically means “avoid trouble whenever possible”. But then we often feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied because no resolution has been reached. Stuart Hearn, CEO of Clear Review stated, “Conflict should be addressed head-on before it has the opportunity to escalate and become toxic”. Conflict is generally considered to be inevitable, so don’t shy away from it. It is the responsibility as leaders/ managers/ HR professionals to tackle the issues fairly and swiftly. The faster you react, the easier it is to resolve.
Let’s find out the common sources of conflict at workplace before we learn how to constructively resolve it.
Common Sources of Conflict
- Poor Communication
Different styles of communicating may lead to misunderstandings between employees or between management and employee. For example, if the deadline of a project is poorly communicated to the team members, it could have caused unnecessary distress to the team members to rush out the project and deliver a substandard output that displeased the management and clients.
- Personality Clashes
We are all unique in our own way. Some of us are introvert, extrovert or could be a mixed of both. Some are pure optimist while the others are pessimist. The way we approach to work and problem-solving could differ from each other and this could lead to unnecessary conflict at workplace.
- Different Interests and Values
Every workplace is made up of people who comes from different background and see the world differently. One individual employee might be ‘fighting’ for their personal goals/ interest and ignore organizational goals and well-being. While the other might have different perceived belief systems/ values from their organizational values. Conflict occurs when those differences are lacking in acceptance and understanding.
5 Tips in Handling Conflict
- Communicate Business Values
“If values are unclear there will be conflict because people will not be sure what makes them a hero or a villain in the organisation.” – Sarah Brown, Co-founder of inspire2aspire
Communication of company values to the employees and ensure their understanding of company values are essential for any growing business. They help to make ground-based decisions, encourage positive behaviours, and help recruit and retain like-minded staff.
- Put Yourself in Their Shoes
“You will never get to truly understand the motive behind the conflict if you’re not able to put yourself in their shoes.” – Shaun Bradley, Director of People at Perkbox
Listen actively to both parties when dealing with conflict. Place yourself in their position to get a true sense of what has motivated the issue. Only then, you will be able to find the root cause and get compromisation from both ends to resolve the conflicts.
- Stick to the Facts and Focus on the Lesson Learned
“Where a mutually acceptable outcome isn’t possible, make decisions that are grounded in fairness and understanding.” – Paul Russell, Director of Luxury Academy London
While we would all like to resolve conflict in consensus, sometimes this is not feasible. Therefore, sticking to the truth and ensuring that no personal feelings or motives enter the equation is the key in resolving the conflict. In addition, we should not see a conflict just as a problem but rather see it as an opportunity for positive change, growth and improvement. What is it that you can learn from this conflict? How can the organization benefit from the problems raised?
- Positive Employee Relations
“Positive Employee Relations can be an intangible and enduring asset, a source of sustained competitive advantage.” – Jerome Forde, Forde HR Cloud
Investing in a culture of positive employee relations is essential for a productive workplace. This includes treating all staff with dignity and respect, being transparent, and establishing fair management systems. A positive workplace culture improves teamwork, raises the morale, increases productivity and efficiency, and enhances retention of the workforce. Job satisfaction, collaboration, and work performance are all enhanced. And, most importantly, a positive workplace environment reduces stress in employees.
- Praise, Training and Team Bonding
“Give the team achievable incentives to meet group targets and reward them for working together effectively.” – Emily Gray, Founding Director of Bain & Gray
It is up to senior management to create a collaborative environment, not competition between employees, and the little things matter. Group activities, days out, well-being workshops, and team lunches help with this effort.
Only through learning to resolve conflicts constructively, we can then turn a potentially destructive situation into an opportunity for innovation and increased performance. Many managers and human resources professionals are moving to conflict management training to mitigate or avoid the impact of conflicts at workplace.
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