Conflict resolution should be a be a skill in every workplace manager’s arsenal. With more than half of American workers reporting feeling dissatisfied with their work situations, managers must recognize the role conflict plays in employee retention and turnover rates as well as overall productivity. Workplace conflicts can breed resentments among coworkers and deteriorate the culture of any company, but they can also become opportunities for growth when leveraged appropriately.
Encourage Internal Resolutions
As a manager confronted with a conflict between two or more employees who report to you, one of the best steps to take to solve a workplace conflict as quickly and effectively as possible is to encourage an honest and productive discussion between the parties involved. Perhaps two of your direct reports disagree about a particular workflow or some uncertainty exists concerning job responsibilities for a particular project. Encourage the employees who report conflicts to sit down for a civil, mediated, and productive conversation. Passive aggressiveness and unwillingness to start open dialogue are some of the most common driving forces behind ongoing workplace conflicts.
Practice Active Listening and Encourage Others to Do the Same
Many people struggle with honest communication and conflict resolution because of an unwillingness to listen actively to others’ points of view. Too many people simply wait for their turns to speak instead of actively listening to the other side of the dialogue. When you initiate conflict resolution with your team, make sure the participants are actually listening to one another and absorbing each other’s points of view. Encourage them to ask for clarification when necessary or to paraphrase each other’s statements back to each other before replying to ensure nothing is lost in translation.
Identify Unworkable Problems
When a conflict arises from a disagreement over a work process, that is a workable problem with many potential solutions. However, if you encounter any type of conflict that is unworkable, such as an abusive employee or an employee who has actively harassed others or engaged in willfully malicious conduct against others, there is no other option other than to investigate the issue extensively and take appropriate action to rectify the issue.
As a manager, your goal with any conflict resolution should not be to issue a decree as too how all parties involved will proceed, but rather to help those parties develop a cohesive and mutually agreeable solution together. As you engage in discussions about the conflict, help your employees recognize potential solutions and develop a list of potential outcomes. This can provide much-needed perspective and help reach the best possible solution.
Ensure Agreement on the Solution and Respect Going Forward
When you conclude a conflict resolution discussion with your team, ensure everyone is on the same page moving forward and encourage those involved in the conflict to shake hands and thank one another for resolving the conflict professionally. Ensuring your team is satisfied with the result of your discussion and ready to move on is the crucial final step for conflict resolution in any workplace.
Conflicts at work are an undeniable and unavoidable reality; when people work together for a long time, they will inevitably encounter disagreements. Speedy and decisive conflict resolution helps preserve a healthy working environment for everyone and minimizes lost productivity from ongoing internal conflicts. Keep these tips in mind the next time you notice any type of workplace conflict among your team members.