When people with different life experiences, educational backgrounds, and working styles come together, conflicts happen; especially at work! This is moreso with new ways of working from home and the stress of delivering output during a pandemic. So it’s up to the organization to avoid being defined by conflict. After all, conflict festers ill-will, discord, and disruption in the work environment. It leads to disengagement among co-workers and affects their relationships.
Effective conflict management at Work
If you’ve had repeated instances of conflict among employees, follow the ideas given below to restore peace back to all.
- Ground rules: In the event of disagreement, the objective should be listening to understand. Mutual respect must be shown and tolerance should be practiced. The ground rules should be made clear at the time of onboarding new employees.
- Identify factors behind conflict: Let each participant describe the conflict, with a focus on changes they desire. Ask participants to use sentences that include “I”, and not “you”. This brings focus on behaviors and problems rather than people themselves.
- Other POV: Direct participants to restate what others have stated.
- Summarize: Obtain agreement from participants after summarizing conflict on the basis of discussion.
- Discuss possible solutions or change: Discuss all options positively manner.
- Find a middle ground: Discard options that are not workable, encourage both individuals or groups of individuals to find a middle ground. Then offer them guidance to meet the other party halfway.
- Ensure agreement: Be sure that all parties agree on the next course of action.
- Conclude: End the meeting by asking the individuals to shake hands and thank each other for working together resolve the conflict.
The vicious cycle of cause and effect
Conflict should not be left unresolved, no matter how inconvenient it gets. However, what is more important to understand that it while conflict between two employees can be handled with the help of management and HRs, it is not always the individuals and their personality differences that cause clash.
There are several factors at workplace that open doors for conflict.
Some of these are:
- Workplace behaviors regarded as ‘irritating’,
- Unmet expectations and needs in the workplace,
- Perceived inequities such as pay discrepancies, limited career development opportunities, and biased decision-making,
- Unclear demarcation of roles and responsibilities in the workplace,
- Not adhering to job description – for instance, positioning a non-supervisory employee in as an unofficial supervisor,
- Mismanagement of a systemic circumstance, transitions such as a merger or acquisition, organizational change, or a reduction in force,
- Conflicted loyalties, misplaced priorities and poor communication
- Different work methods or perspectives, often attributed to age, sex or background, and;
- Plain old bullying or harassment.
Organizations have the power to mitigate the aforementioned factors from causing conflict, and pave the way for a smooth workflow. A good start would be to set a framework to minimize such conflicts. For effective conflict management at work, originations should focus on policies and agreements, written rules, careful hiring, effective management and fair grievance processes.