Resolving workplace conflicts and dealing with clashing coworkers are no easy tasks for business leaders. Between the hurt feelings involved and employees’ different communication styles, you have a lot on your plate.
But conflict management skills in the workplace are among the most crucial skillsets that team leaders, supervisors, managers, and Human Resources professionals can hone, according to conflict management and organizational development expert Bob Churilla.
Don’t Let Conflicts Fester
Unresolved conflicts will lead to a decrease in employee morale and productivity, which you can’t afford. Here are some expert tips to boost your conflict management abilities.
- Intercede Immediately: If disagreements and differences of opinion escalate to interpersonal conflict between coworkers, you must intervene immediately, according to The Balance Careers (TBC). If you value your organization and your positive culture, not intervening is not an option – and your mediation skills are critical.
Start by meeting with the disagreeing coworkers together to let them each briefly summarize their point of view. But don’t let the other party comment, interrupt, or attack the other employee. Keep the discussion short, so all parties are clear about the disagreement and conflicting viewpoints.
Also, remind the employees that the goal of conflict resolution is not about winning the argument or being right, according to Digital Project Manager (DPM). Try to get each person (or team) not to view the other side as the opponent – this will doom both parties to remain adversaries and will undermine the potential for a mutually beneficial outcome.
- Don’t Play the Blame-Game: When you’re attempting to resolve workplace conflicts, don’t look for a person to blame – instead, look for a root cause. Sure, people make mistakes, but focusing on an individual’s mistake so far that you’re placing blame won’t help you to deal with clashing coworkers. Instead, look at the deeper issues, such as whether the person had the right information or resources to do her job correctly and whether the systems in place work or fail.
In the end, even if you can’t resolve the conflict with total agreement between parties, you should always stick to the facts and ensure that no personal feelings or agendas enter into the conflict resolution process, according to the Association for Talent Development (ATD).
- Improve Communication: Meet face to face, and make sure that all parties involved in the conflict remain open to collaborating in solving the issues at hand. Many workplace conflicts stem from misunderstandings due to different communication styles, TDP noted. In today’s digital world, team members may not even work with each other in-person, and instead communicate electronically and work remotely. This can exacerbate the pitfalls of interpersonal and team conflict resolution, with more opportunities for communication breakdowns.
If at all possible, try to resolve workplace conflicts in a face-to-face meeting. Dealing with conflict in-person is important to support other conflict-resolution techniques, TDP stated. Face-to-face meetings allow all parties to understand emotional cues in people’s face and body language.
- Give Specific Feedback: Finally, when offering feedback to the employees who are involved in a conflict, be as specific as possible, according to the Springfield Business Journal. Don’t avoid speaking straightforwardly because you want to avoid hurting employees’ feelings.
Avoid giving employees one-size-fits-all feedback like, “work on your communication” or “try to be more cooperative.” Instead, provide more specific recommendations and directions, so the parties involved in the conflict know exactly what you mean.
Tease Out What You Can Learn
Always view conflict as an opportunity for positive change, growth, and improvement, ATD stressed. When you approach a conflict, make sure you consider what you can learn from the situation and how your business can benefit from the issues raised.
Bottom line: You should learn how to recognize different types of conflicts and identify casual workplace irritations before they grow into full-blown clashes. You can use team-building exercises and emotional intelligence to deal with conflict as well. Applying the tips above will help you to deal with clashing coworkers and resolve workplace conflicts with confidence and tact.
(This post first appeared in a ProfEd blog)
By Sarah T on 6th Feb 2019