Conflict is a natural occurrence in any relationship, so you should expect to see it arise within your organization. But it’s not pleasant. Conflict causes avoidance, agitation, and frustration. And it will sap employee enthusiasm and productivity. As a leader, it’s your job to actively resolve conflict when it occurs—to foster healthy working relationships for all.
In the AudioSolutionz webinar, “Improve Your Conflict-Resolution Skills: The Proven Process for Managing Conflict in the Workplace,” corporate trainer Joel Garfinkle explains how to pinpoint what triggered a specific conflict and then proceed through a 5-step process—from setting up a conversation with the parties in dispute to creating a cooperative action plan—for achieving a successful resolution.
No, Conflict Does Not Go Away On Its Own
Facing conflict isn’t easy for anyone. Most of us struggle with it and may prefer to run and hide rather than step up to the plate. So, as you seek to manage conflict in your workplace, beware of these four pitfalls to avoid:
Mistake #1: Avoiding conflict. The most frequent response to conflict is avoidance. People push conflict to the side in the hope that it will go away, but it always finds a way to reappear—either in the same situation or a different one, suggests Garfinkle.
Better bet: “Use a benchmark for confronting issues: If you have had three or more instances of thinking about something troubling, challenge yourself to address it and take steps for achieving resolution,” notes The Professional Development Group. Setting a hard-and-fast rule for when you commit to step into resolution mode can help keep you to task.
Mistake #2: Not recognizing differences in communication styles. Sometimes conflicts arise due to communication differences. “Tuning into these differences can minimize conflict by undermining assumptions about other people’s behaviors,” states The Professional Development Group.
Example: You might mistake an employee’s blunt replies for rudeness or misinterpret a get-down-to-business employee’s temperament as aloofness. The assumptions you draw are fodder for conflict.
By exposing yourself and your team to various communication styles, you can “avoid misunderstanding and minimize conflict in the workplace,” says The Professional Development Group.
Mistake #3: Getting defensive. It’s hard not to take conflict personally. And when things feel personal, it’s easy to get defensive.
When faced with a complaint, what you want to do is convey a willingness to understand the other party’s perspective, but when you’re defensive, you’ll instead “steadfastly deny any wrongdoing,” explains Stefan Jacobson in a Conover blog.
The problem: Refusing to accept any responsibility in the conflict will create long-term problems and cause the conflict to grow, Jacobson continues.
Mistake #4: Not actively listening. The only way to truly understand another person’s point of view on an issue is to listen—well.
“Active listening establishes that you are a manager who values their team members, supports their efforts and contributions, and encourages them in all their endeavors,” says ExecuNet. This type of listening is necessary to maintain healthy, respectful relationships, the company further suggests.
Keep Calm—and React Constructively
As a leader, it’s your responsibility to diffuse conflict, but you can only do this with the proper skillset.
“To successfully resolve a conflict, you need to learn and practice two core skills,” says Healthguide: the ability to quickly relieve stress in the moment and the ability to remain comfortable enough with your emotions to react in constructive ways, even in the midst of a perceived attack.
Other conflict resolution skills that will serve you well are:
- Communication. Whether in an employee appraisal or everyday discussions of team performance, being able to provide constructive feedback helps your employees improve and rise to meet expectations, notes Garfinkle.
- Accountability. Holding employees accountable for their behavior is necessary if you want to salvage morale and avoid turnover. One way to do this? “Document conflict-initiating behaviors exhibited by a chronic complainer as preparation for a performance appraisal,” notes The Balance Careers. Once you document the behavior, the employee can’t act as if it didn’t happen.
- Collaboration or compromise. When you help employees come to a compromise, both parties come out winners. “Solutions that involve collaboration or compromise are the most productive, because they ensure everyone’s needs are met,” states Garfinkle on his Career Advancement Blog.
Resolve To Resolve Conflict
Resolving conflict is not easy! Joel Garfinkle shares tips, tricks, and techniques for effectively handling conflict in the workplace in his skill-building webinar. If you want to be a better leader, you must know how to identify the roots of conflict, how to resolve conflict in a timely manner, and how to avoid the most common conflict resolution blunders.