People have different motivations, aspirations, and goals. When these things clash, a conflict arises, and this is just a common thing in almost every group of individuals. When resolved properly, workplace conflicts can lead to better ideas, better understanding, and better working relationships. So, let’s get it clear on how to take advantage of conflicts and deal with them ruining neither business processes nor interpersonal relations.
Three basic things you should understand about conflicts
Conflicts are usually a thing that most people do not like and make every effort to avoid. However, it is not always something to fear and could even bring a positive outcome. Hence, there are three main things you should keep in mind before starting to deal with workplace conflicts:
- Conflicts are inevitable. You cannot assemble a team of people who completely agree with each other on all aspects of work and have similar values. Actually, even if you manage to do that, there are no guarantees that your team is immune to conflicts:) The nature of conflicts is so diverse, so you’ll never know where to add a landing spot.
- Conflicts do not tolerate ignorance. Pretend that nothing is happening? Be ready for a catastrophe. The first and very important thing you should do is to embrace a conflict, admit that it exists, requires your resources and attention. Otherwise, it would be much more painful to get things right after all.
- Conflicts bring change. And arise when a change is really needed. Your main goal while resolving a conflict is to make this change positive: for you, for business, for teammates. Focusing on creating positive change when settling a conflict ensures progress and advancement.
As it was already said, you cannot escape a conflict. However, as a manager or team lead, you can do much for creating an atmosphere where conflicts have little chances to break up. What is the main pillar of such a strategy? Yes, well-developed communication and the open-door policy within a team. By sticking to this principle, you will not only cut back on your own stress but also maintain the team’s performance to a high standard.
Types of workplace conflicts you’d better be aware of
Well, you must know your enemy to win! Let’s sort out what are the differences between conflicts and how to determine which one exactly you are dealing with:
- Task-based conflict. It’s just a classic variant of workplace conflicts and the most widespread one within teams. It occurs in situations when teammates must coordinate their tasks so that everyone can successfully get their part done. For example, an accountant can’t do their job without all the numbers. If an employee is constantly late with their reports, it affects the accountant’s ability to finish up and make deadlines. How to prevent this kind of misunderstanding? Delegate tasks effectively! Clearly spell out the roles and responsibilities of every member of a team, emphasize the importance of accountability, so that everyone will be on the same page when deadlines approach.
- Leadership conflict. Everybody has a different leadership style, and every employee reacts differently to those leadership styles. Of course, we all different and cannot escape from that, but we can show flexibility and respect to each other without reference to leadership preferences.
- Work-style conflict. This type of conflict is often narrowed down to differences between team players and individual contributors. However, there are many other aspects: some people appreciate attentive guidance, others do not like being supervised; some work faster, others implement tasks slowlier but more attentively. Anyway, we all must learn to work with each other’s differences.
- Personality-based conflict. Here everything is simple: sometimes we just do not like each other. Sometimes even for no reason.This circles back to the issue of empathy and understanding. Don’t let what you see define everything you’ll think about someone in the future.
- Discrimination. This is where things get more serious, and where HR managers might have to get involved. If harassment or discrimination is going on due to age, race, ethnicity, gender, or what have you, there’s a serious need for the company to explicitly emphasize open-mindedness, acceptance, and understanding.
Tips for managers to handle workplace conflicts
Your goal should not be to win a conflict or to be right at all costs. Your goal is to make a conflict to work for your business and team – take advantage of it as much as possible. And what is also very important: you should prevent a situation when a conflict poisons relations and atmosphere in the long run. So, it’s definitely not the time to think about your victory.
Do not look for a person to blame – look for the main cause of conflict and work with it. The worst conflict-resolution strategy (but, unfortunately, particularly widespread) is to play the blame game. Imagine that you’ve found the one to blame. So what? You are not any closer to the resolution and left the one person to hold the bag. Not very smart, right?
Focus on behavior, not personalities. While talking about a conflict, try to focus on actions that spawned a conflict and processes that are ongoing within a team as a result. But never make the issue personal.
Listen carefully and talk to the team. It’s essential to give your complete attention to team members who want to speak out. Do not interrupt and make sure you’re getting the message an employee intends to send. Also, do not avoid speaking about emotions caused by the ongoing conflict – both yours as a manager and your team members’.
Keep your efforts to resolve a conflict goal-oriented. In simple words, before starting resolution efforts, determine the goals you want to achieve as a result and never lose focus on them.
Be able to admit that you are wrong if you are the side of a conflict. In fact, this is a valuable and rare quality, which is very useful not only in professional life:) This point correlates with the first one: your goal should not be to win at all costs – if you understand that you’ve made something wrong, speak about it. People who can recognize mistakes enjoy respect and high esteem.
Learn lessons from every conflict, do not repeat mistakes. If a conflict has been successfully resolved, do not rush to forget this ever happened. Take your time to analyze the situation and the effectiveness of the chosen resolution strategy – just reflect on the situation for some time. Learn lessons and take notes!;)