How to handle conflict in the workplace

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How to handle conflict in the workplace

Nobody likes conflict in the workplace. It causes tension and hinders productivity. In very severe cases it can even be detrimental to the health of employees. But when you have a diverse group of people trying to work together, with different ways of doing things and different personalities, conflict is inevitable. How you deal with it is what counts.

Every conflict may feel different, but when you get right down to it there are common denominators. The most common causes of conflict in the workplace are lack of communication, disregard for company policy, a break in the chain of command, office gossip and mistrust. The ability to recognize and understand the nature of conflict, and conflict resolution, will serve you well in any business or leadership position.

Conflict should never be left to fester, because that’s when it escalates and things get out of control. It needs to be dealt with proactively and as soon as possible. So how do you deal with workplace conflict?

Conflict between colleagues

Getting drawn into your colleague’s battles will get you nowhere. If the conflict doesn’t directly involve you, then it is best to pass on your concerns to management or HR and stay out of the action. If, however, the conflict is negatively affecting your creativity, productivity or performance, in any way, then you can’t remain on the sidelines. You need to raise your concerns with your colleagues and management. You need to ensure that management understands that your colleague’s behavior is affecting your performance and needs to be handled.

Conflict between you and your manager

Don’t hide your grievances, approach your manager and ask for a meeting to discuss the conflict. Be calm, respectful and constructive. Criticizing and assigning blame isn’t going to get you anywhere and will probably escalate the problem. If you can talk it out calmly, and communicate your thoughts clearly, you’ll probably be able to reach a workable resolution. If you feel too intimidated to approach your manager, then involve HR from the beginning.

Conflict between you and a subordinate

How you handle conflict with a subordinate says a lot about your management skills and style. All managers will have conflict with their subordinates and it can be problematic. Subordinates often find it difficult to raise issues with their managers, especially if they are worried about job security and let things build-up for too long. It is essential to foster open communication with subordinates. Listen carefully to what they have to say, take their complaint seriously and explain your position clearly.

If you can’t come to an understanding on your own, then bring in HR to help you. A third party can give you a better perspective and understanding of another person’s viewpoint. If you really can’t work together, place the employee under the supervision of another manager if possible.

Talk to Human Resources

Whether you’re in the middle of the conflict or on the sidelines, it is important to talk to HR. Companies spend a lot of money on HR specialists for a reason, and they should be part of your conflict resolution strategy.

Conflict comes in all shapes and sizes and often tops the list of reasons why employees look for other jobs. It is up to senior management to create an environment of cooperation, not competition between employees. Good conflict resolution will ensure that your employees, colleagues, and subordinates trust you and know that they can discuss potential issues openly. This will lead to a healthier work environment and better employee retention. And lastly remember, don’t hold grudges, once you’ve reached a resolution move on.


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