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Conflict is a common reality in every workplace; every human interaction has the potential for conflict, and when a diverse range of people work together every day, conflict is inevitable. Each person in the organization will have unique needs, values, desires, and perceptions, and these unique factors may at times cause stress or tension in workplace relationships.
The effects of conflict in the workplace are widespread and costly. Its prevalence shows that 24-60% of management time and energy is spent dealing with anger. This leads to decreased productivity, increased stress among employees, hampered performance, high turnover rate, absenteeism and at its worst, violence and death.
Therefore, it is important to be able to know how to identify, assess, and resolve conflicts. While conflict arises in both work and non-work situations, managers should focus their energy on strategies for conflict at work.
There are specific steps managers can take to reduce workplace conflict.
1- Always realize that conflicts are inevitable at work.
2- Settle conflict sooner rather than later. Do it now! It’s very tempting to wait for a conflict to blow over by itself, but it rarely does – in most cases it only gets worse with time.
3- Look at communication skills, both in terms of how they communicate and how they’re teaching their employees to communicate with each other.
4- Beef up listening skills. Active listening involves things like actually trying to understand what the other person is saying, and then communicating to the other person that you do indeed understand what they’re saying.
5- Establish healthy boundaries. Without boundaries, there will be conflict and squabbles, power struggles and all kinds of circumstances that make for messy situations.
6- You can be professional and be empathetic and compassionate toward your employees, without crossing the line of becoming their friend. This is especially important when there’s a power difference between two people in an employment situation.
7- Develop the skill of emotional intelligence; developing skills to be more effective by teaching people to combine both intelligence and emotions in the workplace.
Set up behavioral consequences to be used with truly uncooperative employees who are unwilling to change.
You can also adopt the giraffe language conflict resolution method that consists of six steps:
- Invitation: Invite the person to talk about the situation in a neutral and objective manner.
- Apologize: Apologize for your part in the conflict.
- Appreciate: Praise the other part in the conflict. Tell them why it’s worth it to you to solve the conflict.
- Outline the consequences: Outlining the consequences of the conflict shows why it’s necessary to resolve the conflict. It also helps participants to look beyond themselves and see the conflict “from the outside”.
- Objective: Set a goal so both parties know the outcome they are aiming for.
- Request: Ask for specific actions that can be implemented right away.
Always remember that you can’t win a conflict at work. Winning a conflict, ie, getting the outcome you want regardless of what the other person wants can be gratifying, sure, but the problem is that the underlying issue has not been solved. It will simply reappear later over some other topic. Much better than winning a conflict at work is resolving it.
The Business Lobby Team