How to Tackle Conflict at the Workplace

How to Tackle Conflict at the Workplace

No more he-said, she-said! Efficient conflict resolution is the sure-fire way to create a productive workplace.

Conflict is part and parcel of working with the same people day after day. When you bring together people with diverse socio-economic, geographical and ideological backgrounds to work together as a team, chances are there are going to be moments when people feel angry or frustrated with each other.

Conflicts aren’t just minor inconveniences or drama; they can cost the company a lot of money. In fact, employers in the U.S. spend 2.8 hours in the entire workweek dealing with conflict, which costs their businesses an annual loss of US$359 billion. To avoid the financial burden of conflicts, leaders must be well-equipped with knowledge of the kinds of conflicts they might encounter at work and how to effectively deal with them. 

Types of conflicts common at work

Workstyle conflicts

Almost everyone has a different way of working. Person A might enjoy working by themselves, whereas person B might want to work closely with someone else to get constant feedback on how the task is coming along. Some might be methodical and take time to get a task done, while others might want to race to the finish line. These differences in work styles and personalities can make it challenging to work together. As a leader, you can mitigate workstyle conflicts by creating an environment of mutual respect and encouraging employees to cooperate to ensure the success of the task.

Leadership conflicts

While some leaders might be direct and to the point, others may be more laid back and welcoming. Each leader has a different management style, and employees respond differently to said styles. It is therefore important that leaders or managers are aware of their respective leadership styles and how these styles correlate with the work styles of the people in their team. You must try to tailor your leadership style to fit the needs of the team members. Essentially, be stern with those who need it and lax with those who can work without much supervision.

Creative conflicts

When people from diverse backgrounds get together to brainstorm ideas for a particular task, they would have different opinions on how to approach it. This can invariably lead to conflict. Creative conflicts are nothing to shy away from. In fact, they can help you come up with better ideas for projects. When faced with creative differences, team members should think of the bigger picture and remind themselves of the goal of the task. They have to come together to decide on a better idea, make compromise or combine aspects of different ideas to produce an even better one. 

Task-based conflict

We have all done group projects at some point in our lives, be it in school or at the workplace. Typical task-based conflicts stem from some members of the team not delivering their part of the task on time and a lack of effective communication and/or coordination between team members. The best way to tackle such a situation before it even arises is to clearly delegate tasks to each team member and ensure that they understand their respective responsibilities. This will guarantee that they are all on the same page as the deadline for said task approaches. 

Dealing with conflict

Solve it head-on!

If a conflict is ignored, then chances are that tensions will grow, and you will start seeing their impact on the everyday functioning of the workplace. If you notice a conflict, make sure you actively tackle it and encourage your employees to talk through it. By intervening, you will prevent situations from escalating. 

Identify the source 

To find out what is causing issues between employees, you need to carefully listen to all the parties involved. Avoid taking sides, and do hear everyone out in an unbiased manner. Try to learn as much as you can by asking questions to clarify the situation. Often, listening to both sides and assessing the situation can help you come up with personalized solutions that will be beneficial to all parties involved. 

Finding points of agreement

Sometimes, the only way to solve a disagreement is to find points on which both parties can agree. Tell both parties about the arguments they have in common, and which side seems to be the better alternative from your point of view. Then, encourage both parties to come together and find a solution that everyone can agree on. If one party is more aggressive and the other just caves in, the root of the conflict still exists and might crop up again later. 

Learn from the conflict 

Conflicts offer you a great opportunity to learn. Disagreements can force you to think outside the box and come up with new ways to collaborate and work together. As a leader, you must leverage conflicts for team building and leadership development. 

The main takeaway here should be that, to resolve conflicts, you need to understand them. To create a productive workplace, you must tackle conflicts head-on and use them as learning opportunities to prevent future disagreements. Compromise and cooperation are essential to working together; thus, you must approach any conflict with these two aspects in mind. 

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Header image courtesy of Freepik

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