Conflicts can be detrimental to your team and lead to disruption in the workplace if not effectively managed. That’s why conflict management is a skill that’s much desired in the business world.
The ideas in this post will help you identify conflicts and implement conflict management strategies effectively in your business.
What Is Conflict Management?
Conflict management includes techniques and practices that you use to solve conflicts. When noticing workplace conflicts between or with your staff, you need to intervene in time and use your conflict management skills. The longer you allow conflicts to develop, the more difficult they are to resolve.
Successful conflict management will increase team productivity and maintain a positive work environment. In contrast, poor conflict management can lead to destructive, hostile behaviors among your employees and impair teamwork energy—all of which threaten the operation of your business.
So, it’s important to identify the right conflict management approach to specific workplace problems. Depending on the type and the cause of the conflict, you can choose a different course of action. In most cases, the reasons for workplace conflicts include:
- Competition between staff
- Differences in goals, values, and perceptions
- Task-based disagreement and misunderstanding
You need to recognize types of workplace conflicts and implement the most optimal conflict management approaches.
How to Identify Conflicts in the Workplace?
As a leader, you can’t wait until someone comes to you to report about a conflict going on among team members. By observing and keeping your ear to the ground, you can spot signs of workplace conflicts and provide timely resolutions. Below are some common signs to help you identify conflicts.
Observing somebody’s body language is the most common way to realize that there’s something wrong happening. You can watch out for these gestures:
- Frowning: the person might be discontented or there’s a wave of anger inside them.
- Avoiding eye contact: the person is hiding something, or showing nervousness towards other people.
- Crossed arms: the person is afraid or is feeling under attack.
These gestures can be subtle and aren’t always exact, so you shouldn’t depend on them too much. And don’t stare at somebody for too long as it can get awkward and annoying.\
Changes In Behavior
It’s a good idea to take a walk around the workplace and observe employees’ facial expressions. Look for those who seem depressed or stressed out. You can also look at how they act within a group, for example, withdrawing from situations or staying quiet during discussions. Something that doesn’t feel like them on typical days.
The reasons for changes in behavior might be workload, responsibilities, family issues, etc. And workplace conflict is also one of the possibilities. By spotting these behavioral changes, you can find timely solutions and avoid issues that can affect your employees and business in the future.
When an employee is feeling unhappy, their work may also become sluggish. This leads to a significant decrease in productivity. Find out the root cause of this situation by having an informal conversation with them, in a place where they can release all of their feelings. Who knows, this is also a sign for you to realize that something wrong is going on in the business, like a conflict between employees.
Forming Cliques and Gossiping
Forming cliques at work is no longer a strange thing. There are various reasons why people divide into groups when they go to work. But mostly because of personal conflicts of interest, differences in mindset, or simply because of the mutual hatred towards somebody.
Cliques often have meetings in the corridor to gossip about someone or the issues happening in the team, which is a very easy way to lead to workplace conflicts. As a leader, if you see your staff forming cliques, taking sides, and ganging up on others, it’s time to take action.
Complaints from Other Members
Complaints from other employees are the most obvious way that signals workplace conflicts. Employees may come to talk to you or the HR department directly, or file complaints.
Remember to do fact-checks and listen to both sides carefully before making any decision. Most of the time, you want to keep the reporter’s name to yourself instead of saying “Hey, X told me you were fighting a lot with Y.”
Some employees may avoid or hesitate to report their problems to their superiors. So show yourself as an empathetic and friendly leader, and encourage team members to come to you for any matter that concerns them.
Basic Reminders to Implement Conflict Management
Workplace conflict is a “double-edged sword”. If you don’t handle it skillfully, it’ll quickly turn into a personal conflict. This is the reason why the team disintegrates, talent is wasted and staff leave.
If you want to retain your employees and make sure they aren’t affected by workplace conflicts, you need to know and use the right conflict management approaches.
Prioritize Strong Bonds and Good Relationships
As a manager, your priority in any conflict situation is to maintain good team relationships. Make sure everyone understands conflict is a common problem, and to resolve it requires respectful discussion, not aggression.
Meet your employees to clarify the importance of the relationships between colleagues, then address key issues. Let them know that you respect their points of view, appreciate their cooperation, and desire to resolve their situation. You should also make it clear that everyone needs to work together to maintain amicable relationships and achieve both personal and organizational goals.
Listen, Listen, and Listen
The most important thing in conflict management conversations is helping everyone understand each other’s interests and concerns. Take a positive stance, keep the conversations polite, and avoid blaming anyone.
Ask each person to express their viewpoints, and emphasize that you need their cooperation to resolve the issue. Encourage both employees to use active listening skills, including looking into the speaker’s eyes, listening carefully, nodding, and waiting for the other person to finish before replying.
Find Out Solutions Together
After listening to each other, each side’s viewpoints will be more likely to be better understood. Encourage your employees to come up with the most appropriate solutions to their conflicts. You can make suggestions if the employees can’t seem to find mutual solutions themselves.
Conflict is always one of the hardest things to handle when managing a business. However, if dealt with properly, conflict can actually help businesses become more productive and more successful. Try to implement the conflict management strategies above to strengthen workplace relationships and avoid more serious problems in the future.