6 Tips for Effectively Managing Conflict in the Workplace
Any time you get a group of people together in one place for any length of time, conflict is bound to erupt.
Add in stress from deadlines, client pressure, and worry about what’s going on at home and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Properly managing conflicts in the workplace doesn’t mean going out of your way to avoid them altogether; that’s just unrealistic. Instead, it comes down to sensitively and expediently managing them so that small problems don’t balloon into major issues.
Here are 6 tips for effectively managing conflict in the workplace:
Clarify the Source
You can’t solve a problem you can’t identify, and you can’t resolve a conflict you can’t trace to its source.
This requires speaking with all concerned and seeking to understand their views of the source of the conflict, then helping them come to a mutual agreement over what their disagreement is. Continue asking questions of clarification until you are confident that both you and all conflicting parties understand the issue.
Find a Place to Talk
No one wants to hash out a conflict in the middle of the office. This just puts everyone on edge and can lead to temper flares and people digging in their heels.
To encourage an open, calm discussion, find a safe, private place to talk. If possible, this place should also allow for the opposing parties to speak privately with you, if necessary.
Having a private, neutral environment helps the parties feel comfortable communicating honestly about the conflict without outside stressors.
Practice Active Listening
This is the portion of conflict resolution that requires you to allow both sides to speak their piece.
When this happens, allow each party to air their side of the issue without interruption or judgement, asking clarifying questions if necessary. If you run into issues, you may have to set ground rules such as allowing a certain amount of time for each person to speak to decrease interruptions.
Once you’ve gathered the concerns from both sides, take some time to investigate everyone’s claims.
Do not fall into the trap of prejudging or jumping to conclusions based only on the information you’re told. Dig deeper to find out more about what happened, the parties involved, and how people feel.
Take time to speak one-on-one with everyone on each side of the issue, practicing active listening. Check your comprehension by summarizing what the person said to you back to them, allowing them to fill in any blanks or correct misinformation.
Figure out a Way Forward
After you’ve had a chance to get a handle on the situation, it’s time to bring all parties back together and figure out a way forward.
Avoid just dictating a resolution and making all parties abide by it; instead, work with them to come to a mutually agreeable solution and a path forward. Be sure to clearly delineate which parties are responsible for what portions of the resolution.
Evaluate & Prevent
Now that you’ve helped all parties come to an agreeable solution to their conflict, evaluate how the process worked and look for ways you can improve the working environment in the future.
If, for example, the conflict arose over use of a common area, perhaps implementing a formal request form for use of that common area with a publicly posted schedule of reservations could help alleviate any future conflicts.
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