How to resolve conflict in the workplace as a manager?
Although many of us tend not to like to admit it conflict is a common thing for people. We experience conflict in everyday life among our friends, families and acquaintances. Specifically, workplace conflict is almost impossible to avoid. Now more than ever most organisations have a very diverse workforce, hiring people from different cultural backgrounds and geographical locations with varying views which can often lead to disagreements in the workplace. Differing viewpoints aren’t necessarily a bad thing, however when issues arise, and they take a nasty turn it is important to address workplace conflict immediately to avoid fostering an unpleasant or toxic workplace. To avoid employees becoming frustrated as well as experiencing discomfort, anger and sadness managers and HR Leaders must prepare to deal with workplace conflict. By having conflict management strategies in place to avoid workplace conflict your organisation will foster a positive environment. Avoidance isn’t always possible so HR Leaders must be prepared with strategies to resolve workplace conflict quickly and in turn prevent greater problems arising. We will explore some of the common causes of conflict as an opportunity to mitigate problem from arising, as well as strategies to resolve workplace conflict.
Common causes of workplace conflict
1. Differing personality types: Workplaces consist of a variety of people who inevitably portray different personality types, this can often lead to opposing assumptions or views. Workplace conflict relating to personality types typically occurs when employees with differing views work together within a team. Following on from this it can also occur when a new team member is added, or two staff members have a fall out. Workplace conflict due to differing personality types can also occur when a colleague’s actions or motives are misunderstood. This can be challenging to control and with workplace diversity being promoted it is important to manage these conflicts immediately to ensure an engaged positive workplace.
2. Unclear job expectations: It is important for employees to have a clear understanding of their job expectations. Typically, employees are provided with a job description that outlines and provides an overview of responsibilities. However, every position requires employees to learn and adapt for success. Many employees tip toe around their managers trying to estimate exactly what these job role expectations are. An employee who is unsure of their job expectation is likely to lose confidence become extremely frustrated and therefor could lead to becoming defensive. When an employee begins to become defensive this can cause workplace conflict. In the interest of conflict management, it is better to be clear with employees of what is expected of them.
3. Different working styles: In all workplace’s employees display different working styles. Not every employee will approach a task or project the same way another employee might. Differing working styles can sometimes be a source of conflict. Certain employees may prefer working autonomously other may prefer collaboration and working in a team environment. It is important to recognise how different employees prefer to work and respect that there are different working styles to minimise conflict arising.
4. Organisational restructures: When there is a restructure within an organisation or changes in leadership this can create uncertainty within an organisation. It isn’t that uncommon that after a new leader is promoted or hired that this can potentially create workplace conflict. If there is a restructure to occur, it is important to be as transparent as possible with existing staff to avoid conflict. If a new leader is hired or promoted, it is important to emphasise collaboration with their team to avoid there being a situation where conflict may arise.
5 tips on how to resolve workplace conflict
1. Identify the source of conflict:
You aren’t able to effectively manage and resolve conflict without clarifying the underlying source of the conflict. Understanding the cause and source of the conflict will allow you to better understand how to resolve the issue. This will also assist you to view both points of view from both parties as to what the disagreement is about. Conflict management is all about information, the more information you have about the issue will provide you with a great starting point to resolution.
2. Listen and provide a safe platform for discussion:
It is important to have a constructive conversation and provide a safe place to discuss the issue. Both parties involved in the conflict must have an opportunity to present their point of view. This can sometimes be done in the same place or as the HR Manager you may have to listen to both parties separately. It is key at this point though to not pass any judgment but to rather listen and gather as much information as possible. Only be assertive when necessary to ensure all parties involved are being honest in their overview of events and incidents.
3. Look into the situation:
Take time to investigate the case properly. Weigh up both sides and make sure that you have all the relevant information to resolve the workplace conflict. Make an effort to uncover any information that may not be evident or any information you think all parties involved may be withholding.
4. Agree on a solution:
Conflict management involves all parties trying to reach a common objective. Resolving the conflict requires agreeance on an outcome. Employees will more likely cooperate when it is made apparent that workplace conflict does not benefit any either party involved in the issue. Finding common ground and identifying the responsibilities of each party is important to resolve the issue. At this stage we must also agree on the root cause to ensure it does not happen again.
5. Check in:
Check back in with all parties involved to ensure the issue has been resolved. Effective conflict management involves checking in with your employees specifically when there has been issues in the past. This is to ensure all past issues have been resolved and a preventative measure ensuring that you stay on top of any new workplace conflict and issues which may arise.