Workplace Conflict Management

Workplace Conflict Management

Workplace Conflict Management

It is quite natural for tension to arise in our day to day working- more so at the workplace where you are a part of different teams. In a competitive environment, the chances of everyone coming to a consensus are fairly questionable.

When in a team project, it becomes important to work in harmony lest the productivity of the organization is hampered. In such cases, it becomes all the more critical to work with the dissimilarities as opposed to working against them.

It is then up to the bosses and the team leaders to make sure that minimum damage is caused to the final outcome and the interpersonal relations. Timely and effective involvement helps to nurture professionalism among the employees and also keeps customers satisfied, thus, leading to a prosperous business.

The Definition

Conflict Management is the essential ability to thoughtfully tackle conflicts and oppositions for a fruitful result.

The idea is to learn from each experience in the workplace and use it to develop business associations and customer service. More than anything else, the aim should be to resolve the matter to result in a win-win situation for all.

Conflicts can transpire between colleagues, between a customer and an employee or between divisions at the workplace. While some may not last long, others can have prolonged consequences. All of these can be managed using varied interpolations such as-

Preventive Measures-

  • Change in workplace
  • Job rotation
  • Staff training
  • Conflict management policy 

Alternate dispute resolution-

  • Casual discussions
  • Mediation
  • Reconciliation
  • Arbitration

Preventive Measures 

Although intervention may yield the desired results, it is laborious and in some situations, expensive. Therefore, if prevented at the start, it reduces the requirement to spend resources later on. Preventive measures can help nurture relationships and reduce the risk of clashes.

Effective measures for conflict management include: 

Change in workplace – A well-organized workplace reduces the risk of stress and hostility among employees. It is imperative that the environment should be free of excessive noise, crowd, dangerous equipment etc. Other than this, teams that are working together and are likely to enter into conflicts, should be seated in different offices/floors if possible. 

Job rotation – If people are known to be crossing paths and stepping on each other’s toes, it is advisable to change their job roles or work shifts (provided it suits them). It will ensure a change in environment and engage them differently. 

Staff training– Employees should be trained on conflict management techniques and procedures so as to handle arguments and challenges that come across their way. They should also be provided with adequate resources for them to carry out their role and be able to work in harmony with different teams. 

Conflict management policy –Every company should have a conflict management policy in place which establishes zero tolerance for foul behaviour and the means to tackle it. It should inspire people to report any such occurrence at the onset so the matter doesn’t escalate.

Alternate dispute resolution

When some individuals are susceptible to picking fights or entering into clashes with others, such situations will arise frequently regardless of your attempts to prevent them. However, it can be addressed and we can reach conciliation.

Types of alternate dispute resolution are: 

Casual discussions – These discussions require the conflicting parties to sit and talk about the prevailing issues, in the middle of which, the manager should act as a neutral party and make careful observations. The discussion can be prescribed by anyone be it the colleagues, superiors or the management. The method gives people time and the opportunity to raise concerns, questions, reach a middle ground or simply clear the air between them.

Mediation –This process involves a trained mediator intervening with the conflicting individuals to discuss the problem in a restricted atmosphere. Mediators act as a referee, guiding people to communicate peacefully and come to a conclusion that helps maintain the relationship and doesn’t hamper the task at hand. A mediator can be someone from the workplace or any other suitable external member.

Reconciliation –This method is similar to mediation, except in this case, the conciliator is in charge of taking the final call on what the conflicting parties should do. The decision is legally not enforceable. However, both the parties are expected to abide by it.

Arbitration –This is a more formal method of conciliation where evidence from each party is presented to the arbitrator and the cases may be handled by professional lawyers. The arbitrator evaluates the evidence and enforces a binding recourse the individuals have consented to beforehand.

In order to prevent issues from escalating and then subsequently affecting the business, it is essential to effectively resolve a critical situation and avoid friction in the workplace. People should be encouraged to work in a team and nurture existing associations.

Causes of Conflict at Work

It’s important to figure out the reasons for conflict. It is usually improbable that only one of the parties is to blame. It is therefore, imperative that the root cause is determined to help address the issue and avoid it from arising again in future.

Common causes of conflict at work include: 

  • Character differences– In a workplace, people from different cultural backgrounds co-exist with their individual value systems and principles. It is important for everyone to accept each other by understanding these variations, else it will lead to friction between people who may otherwise be very professional and work peacefully with each other. 
  • Difference in work patterns– Each person has a unique style of working, which cannot be expected out of others. One should keep this in mind and let everyone follow their own methods as long as the end objective is achieved. If not, it will lead to obstructions and delay the timely completion of the project. 
  • Miscommunication or misunderstandings– Conflicts tend to get prolonged if a misunderstanding remains unsettled for quite some time, which messes up with the workflow. 
  • Availability of resources– Adequate resources should be made available to all employees equally and they should be given the liberty to ask for help if required. This will avoid them feeling frustrated at their managers or colleagues. 
  • Levels of supportOther than technical backing, employees need moral support as well, especially in taxing situations. It shouldn’t come across as if the workplace isn’t bothered with their welfare and security else it may lead to negativity and bitterness in the atmosphere. 
  • Poor customer service– The staff should be trained to provide a pleasant customer experience which ensures that they would come back and spread positive feedback about the services. 
  • Poorly-organised workplace– The design of your workplace makes a world of difference to people’s conduct and comfort. A spacious, lively working environment avoids conflicts and hassles on the floor. 
  • Poor management– Leaders and managers have a strong impact on how engaged and motivated their employees feel. They are responsible for giving direction and guidance towards goals. If they are not led onto the right path, they may end up feeling extremely dissatisfied and acrimonious towards the management. 
  • Discrimination, harassment, etc.– Any workplace should have strict repercussions for unkind       and unfair conduct with a policy in place to handle these issues. Any person subjected to exploitation is incapacitated and if not resolved, the problem can lead to serious clashes. 
  • Employee engagement Employees should have utmost clarity about what is expected of their role and position in the organization. They should also feel that they are valued and their opinions are accommodated.

Top Tips for Managing Conflict in the Workplace

Supervisors should follow the below mentioned tips to prevent or manage conflict. This will help keep hostile conduct in check and help the team work efficiently.

Our top 10 tips for managing conflict are: 

  1. Risk assessment– This requires you to be alert and keep your eyes and ears open to observe people’s behaviour. Look for signs of a possible friction and think about remedial measures to take. 
  1. Don’t ignore it Ignoring conflicts will not diminish them. In fact, they become tougher to handle if prolonged. One should deal with the issue on an immediate basis before it can escalate.
  1. Have an ‘open door’ policyA manager should come across as approachable for the employees to come up to him/her with their problems. Any person reporting anything should know that he will be taken seriously.
  1. Promote differences The workplace should be intolerant to discrimination in any form. There should be a positive prevailing philosophy towards different cultures, principles, lifestyles and sentiments.
  1. Mediation  A few senior people in the firm should be trained to manage conflicts and act as a mediator. This implies, that in case of a budding friction, they should intervene timely and bring the parties together for resolution.
  1. Provide support and resources– Employees should be interacted with and the managers should assess their needs from time to time. This will ensure timely completion of work with the best use of resources at hand. Extend tools and information that suit the person to help them work in co-ordination with his peers.
  1. Active listening– Good listening skills help remove disturbances, which is when you listen to someone carefully. It is also important to not develop any pre conceived notions, ask the right questions and comfort the individual while trying to resolve conflicts.
  1. Stay calm and in control When trying to solve a problem, it is important to stay calm and avoid aggression. Don’t give others a chance either to lose control and become hostile. As a manager, remember that people look up to you.
  1. Attack the problem, not the person– Never get personal in an argument. Different people have varying outlooks. Remember to tackle the problem and not the person. Avoid criticism. Emphasise on diagnosing the root cause of the problem and try to come to a consensus.
  1. Be supportive– Create a positive environment and inspire employees to help each other at the workplace with their own special skill set. Each individual is different and should be treated uniquely without being judgemental