Managing conflict in the workplace

The way an organization deals with conflict at work can reveal a lot about company culture. Here are 4 tips to manage conflict more successfully.

CULTURE | 3 MINUTE READ
managing conflict in organizations - Workplace from Meta

Where there’s ambition, competing personalities, and stressful situations, emotions can sometimes boil over. That’s a normal part of working life. But the way an organization deals with these moments can reveal a lot about the culture at that company.

And while some conflicts are short-lived, others are deep-seated and can end up affecting the rest of the team’s productivity and morale.

Either way, senior staff often need to invest significant proportions of their day managing conflict in the workplce. Indeed, managers spend up to 40% of their time just that. And that’s time that could be better spent on more important and productive things.

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Either way, senior staff often need to invest significant proportions of their day managing conflict in the workplce. Indeed, managers spend up to 40% of their time just that. And that’s time that could be better spent on more important and productive things.

Not only that, confusion about job roles and responsibilities can lead to stress, workplace isolation, and even passive-aggressive behavior.

Common causes of conflict in the workplace

Common causes of conflict in the workplace

There are many reasons for discord in the workplace, but here are some of the most common causes. Here are four of them.

  1. Poor communication

    When departments or employees aren’t communicating in effective ways it can create misunderstanding and lead to hostility. But most conflicts arise from something that wasn’t said rather than something that was – a manager reassigning a task without telling an employee why, for example.

  2. Discrimination

    Pay equality is a big workplace issue that many organizations are still struggling to deal with. These failures can be divisive.

    In addition to gender inequality, other forms of discrimination including age, religion, and disability, can also create divisions and leave organizations vulnerable to disharmony or even legal problems.

  3. Personality clashes

    Diversity is good for business. Organizations made up of people with a variety of backgrounds, characteristics and experiences often outperform industry equivalents.1 But it can also pose problems in terms of different business communication styles and block progressive collaboration between individuals and teams.

  4. Competition

    While healthy competition is good for motivating employees, too much rivalry and ruthless ambition can lead to a breakdown in team collaboration. This may be especially true of organizations or departments with performance-related pay and bonuses.

Effective measures for managing conflict in the workplace

Effective measures for managing conflict in the workplace

To keep your team working together in harmony, there are steps you can take to prevent problems and manage conflict effectively. Here are six tactics to get you started.

  1. Set clear expectations

    Clear and considered corporate communication can go a long way toward avoiding disputes. When a manager asks for something to be done, they should outline what they want in terms of deadlines, structure and other key aspects of the task.

  2. Redesign the workplace

    A dimly-lit working environment, an overflowing email inbox and constantly ringing telephones can raise tensions. Change it up. The calmer people feel in their working environment, the less likely conflict is to arise.

    Understanding the environment and tools that hybrid teams need to connect and work effectively together is a key part of productivity management. Get it right and it could pay dividends.

  3. Implement an open-door policy

    Addressing problems up-front is important. If staff feel managers are unapproachable or that they won’t be taken seriously, they might not report any workplace issues.

    Encourage employees to get things off their chest. Some 81% of people would rather work for an employer that values open communication over one that offers perks like free food and gym memberships.

  4. Focus on the problem, not the person

    Managers can sometimes dismiss employee concerns because of perceptions that people are making trouble or are exaggerating issues. But valid differences can often lie behind a conflict. If you separate the problem from the person, you can discuss workplace issues without damaging relationships.

  5. Mediate between employees

    Some conflicts run so deep that you might need outside help to resolve issues. Mediation involves finding an impartial third party that all parties trust – like a manager from another department, an HR representative or co-worker. The mediator will oversee the meeting with the aim of negotiating a solution that everyone is happy with.

  6. Use technology to help solve issues

    The very nature of work can sometimes present the perfect atmosphere for tension and conflict. And using tried and tested methods like these can manage situations can help.

    But technology can, too. Look for the platforms that bring people in your organization closer together and that provide meaningful ways to discuss and address issues openly in public forums.

After all, a solution that encourages people to have better conversations and gives them stronger team working skills, may even prevent serious conflicts arising in the first place.

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1Delivering Growth Through Diversity, McKinsey, 2018
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