March 22, 2019

Managing conflicts

Our careers and work environments form an intrinsic part of our lives, so it’s vital that we’re content with our jobs and working atmosphere. After all, happiness is a key motivator – but what happens when conflicts erupt in the office?

The answer is conflict management, but undertaking this can be difficult. If you’re struggling with achieving the correct balance between heavy-handed taskmaster and a light touch, then take heed of these useful conflict-busting tips.

Definition and awareness

Those wanting to reduce and deal with conflict should bear in mind two important things: which behaviours are defined as acceptable, and the thoughts and actions of employees.

From day one, authority figures within the organisation need to lay out the rules, expectations and behaviour that they find acceptable in the office and team environment. With clear boundaries set out, team members will know the limits of conduct, and when conflicts occur they will be far quicker and easier to flag up.

Now we’re not saying that leaders should be omnipresent, but a manager needs to have a keen ear and eye for identifying and understanding employee conflicts. Knowing the gossip (but not showing an interest), being aware of the different skill-sets and personalities in your team (so as to identify potential flashpoints), and being aware of both causes of tension and overall tension levels in the office. These collectively might sound difficult to grasp, but understanding will save time and effort in the long run.

Deal with conflict head-on

One of the worst things a leader can do in a conflict-wracked environment is to ignore or avoid the issue. Instead, don’t hesitate and tackle the problem head-on in a calm, controlled and respectable manner.

Both parties should be talked to equally so as to understand the nature of the conflict. Next, and before taking official steps to resolve the problem, the affected individuals should then be brought together, talking through the issue with management, again in a calm, non-combative way. If a complaint forms an aspect of the conflict, both sides of the argument should be supported with the utmost professionalism and impartiality, never bringing the issue out into the open, but with records of the events being made.

Superiors shouldn’t be afraid to compromise, and if all else fails, the offending team member could be moved to a different team, talking to both senior management and the conflict’s instigator. If this fails, HR personnel should be brought in as arbiters to the conflict, working through potential solutions in line with company policy. If this should fail then disciplinary procedures should be brought to the fore so offenders can have the behaviours and responsibilities required of them plainly articulated.

When the conflict is resolved, authority figures should follow up with those involved, bearing in mind what led to the issue in the first place – this will stop conflicts from forming again.

The working world can sometimes turn from peaceful to conflictive, but if you follow the above steps and stay astute, you will foster a positive, productive workplace!


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