5 Ways to deal with conflict in the workplace

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5 Ways to deal with conflict in the workplace

This is a guest post from Jamie Costello. Jamie is a legal assistant based in Manchester, UK. The topics he writes about varies from business law to dispute resolution. He uses his knowledge from education and working alongside internal commercial litigations solicitors within his role to help collate his articles.

Tension in the workplace is not avoidable. Even in the best cultures, the best teams and even in the happiest office, you will find some form of conflict is unavoidable.

And an office conflict can lead to a lot of bad things for your business;

  • Loss of productivity
  • Loss of motivation
  • Absence
  • Reduced teamwork
  • Poorer work quality

So, as a leader in a workplace it is important to deal with conflict in a set way, which can include some of the following tactics.

5 Ways to deal with workplace conflict

1) Timing

Stepping in and dealing with conflict successfully relies on several factors, not least of which is timing. Leave an issue too long and it can fester; becoming almost impossible to resolve. As a leader, your responsibility is to step in at just the right time to avoid any ongoing issues.

Don’t move into the situation, taking sides and backing one claim over the other without hard evidence by any means. But, it is important that you step in and let both sides know you are dealing with the issue. The outcome won’t be clear at this point, but it does showcase that you are dealing with the issue promptly.

2) Establish Boundaries

Conflict can quickly become unmanageable if both parties refuse to a level of civility. Whatever the issue, it is your responsibility as a leader to establish what each party’s boundaries are during the conflict and ensure they are respected.

In most workplaces, complete avoidance is unavoidable/not practical. But you should be able to establish a basic framework to ensure work can still be done even during the conflict.

3) Confront Issues, Don’t Ignore

One of the biggest failures of a leader during workplace conflict is to ignore the fact that it is happening. Burying your head in the sand may make your Monday morning easier, but it will lose you both employees as well.

If you ignore a conflict between your employees their work can deteriorate, tensions can make their working relationship irreparable, and you may ultimately lose them both. And the blame may be laid at your feet to boot. Primarily, for failing to deal with or acknowledge that there was a problem to begin with.

A good leader needs to understand conflict is natural and work to ensure it has no long-lasting effect, not dismiss it entirely.

4) Mediate

One of the easiest ways to ensure you deal with a conflict is to mediate between the two parties. Having an open, frank, discussion of the issue and what went wrong can be incredibly important–and resolve the issue much better than most other methods.

Of course, if an issue has developed so far that people are too angry to talk civilly during mediation it can be a real issue. At this point, you may need to actively consider a way to solve the solution by moving/transferring employees where appropriate.

Or, if a party is actively causing the issue and there is hard evidence, then termination may be appropriate in some cases. The fact of the matter is that you have to attempt the mediate and then solve the issue if it presents itself.

5) Listen

The worst thing you can do as a leader during a conflict is to fail at listening. It teaches those under you that you don’t care, even when in most cases you probably care too much. So it’s important to ensure that at the very least you are proving that you care about the situation and how everyone is handling it in that sense.

Listening is one of the key steps to ensuring that you have the respect and understanding of your staff. So, make sure that you have an ear available for any situation.

Overall Thoughts

Conflict is a normal part of everyday life. We have conflicts as part of every life and it is hard to avoid, even in the workplace. The fact of the matter is that as a leader, you need to effectively manage and understand conflicts in your team.

Listen, manage and resolve the issues. That way, you can keep your team in place, hopefully, without any long-standing issues. And you then can continue to resolve similar issues in the same way.


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