What is Workplace Conflict?As the name suggests, workplace conflict is any conflict that disrupts the flow of work. Some disruptions are considered healthy conflict for an organization. When communicating disagreements or concerns in a supportive environment, employees can brainstorm to come up with new ideas and solutions. Unhealthy conflict on the other hand, such as name calling, bullying, gossip, office politics, and employees withdrawing or becoming afraid to speak up will absolutely hurt organizations. An overall lack of mutual respect can create a psychologically unsafe work environment. If left unresolved, workplace conflicts can lead to significant financial and legal costs, including:
- Organizations will lose an average of $359 billion in work hours a year
- High turnover rate
- An average of $125 thousand in legal fees
What is Conflict Management?Conflict management is the practice of identifying disagreements and proactively resolving them in a rational and effective manner. Conflict management is a critical leadership skill yet very few managers and leaders are ever trained or coached on how to resolve conflict. The good news is there are multiple methods to resolving conflict depending on the type of issue and the people involved. We teach the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument where you can resolve conflict by Competing, Collaborating, Compromising, Accommodating or Avoiding. Effectively managing conflicts helps to build stronger relationships, prevents conflict from escalating to personal conflict, and allows room for creativity and innovation. While Senior Leaders and the HR department often act as the ultimate conflict managers, it is necessary for all employees to be equipped in conflict resolution.
Tips for Effective Conflict ResolutionResolving conflict is not always easy or straightforward. It is often very nuanced which is why it is important to be effective in all the different methods of conflict resolution. Here are some helpful pointers of what you should do in times of conflict:
- Be open to solutions- there could be multiple ways of handling the issue
- Actively listen- don’t interrupt or think about your response while the person is speaking
- Be ready to address conflict quickly- if you delay or stall, the conflict usually gets worse, not better.
- Acknowledge how the other side is feeling- don’t diminish or dismiss feelings and concerns.
- Interrupt or cut people off- let them finish their thoughts even if you disagree with what they are saying.
- Ignore the conflict- conflicts don’t get better with time.
- Let emotions take over- if either party is too emotionally charged to have a professional conversation, allow time to cool down first.
- Attack others- name-calling, personal attacks or low blows are never acceptable workplace behavior. Keep it professional.
Managing Conflict RemotelyWhile many of us are not around our coworkers for eight or more hours a day, this does not mean that workplace conflict and even workplace bullying can’t occur. Here are some forms of disruptive workplace behavior that will inherently lead to workplace conflicts:
- Aggressive emails or texts
- Monopolizing supplies and other resources
- Constant and unfair criticism
- Insults and put downs
- Malicious gossiping
- Isolating employees from opportunities or information
- Giving impossible deadlines
- Setting coworkers up for failure
- Creating undue pressure and stress
- Work interference or sabotage which prevents work from getting done
- Verbal abuse