Conflict in the workplace
While conflict is not always negative, more often than not, particularly in the workplace environment, it can have a detrimental effect that if left unmanaged can spread internally and externally. Sometimes however, it is unavoidable and taking into account that no two individuals are the same, it is important to find ways to manage conflict.
There are two main types of conflict within the workplace: organisational conflict which arises from opposing opinions about ideas, actions, or decisions relating to the job, and interpersonal employee differences, which fundamentally comes down to a personality clash. Organisational conflict is not always negative if it results in positive change. In some cases the compromise could be more beneficial for business than the original ideas that created the conflict. However, if this is not the case then this type of conflict can be just as damaging to your organisation as any other. If not managed, it can extend beyond those involved and spread into other areas of your business and generate a negative workplace culture. In rare situations, where there is a lack of management to deal with this conflict, employees may begin to take sides and others may disengage and leave the organisation all together.
Interpersonal employee differences is the most damaging type of conflict because it demonstrates a lack of respect between employees and will more than likely continue until behaviours and attitudes between the parties involved change. Personality clashes are damaging to the business because it leads to decreased productivity levels and an increase in absenteeism. In addition, on an individual level, this kind of conflict is stressful and can spread into other areas of the employee’s life.
While conflict is unpleasant, it is unavoidable at times and therefore it is important that you know how to manage conflict in your business to avoid any damaging effects it could have on your business. Here are some tips to help you manage conflict in your workplace:
Do not avoid the conflict
You may assume that because things have been quiet about the issue that the problem has gone away, however this is not the case. Unresolved conflict, whether it is organisational or interpersonal, will resurface eventually. It may be that when the parties become stressed, the issue is revisited or a new disagreement occurs.
Never meet with the involved parties separately
You will always inevitably receive a one-sided story talking to just one individual and you risk polarising someone’s position. Both parties need to have an equal standing on the issue.
Seek out others affected
Everyone with whom the parties involved interact with will be affected by the conflict situation. Conflict is the perfect breeding ground for a hostile work environment, and in some cases employees will take sides and your business will “divide”.
Working through the problem
Make the issue clear between the involved parties and allow each person to express their opinions and perspectives on the situation. Talk things through until you have reached an initial level of consensus. Ensure that everyone is listening to each other and understands what the other is saying, before discussing what the ideal end result would be. Discuss what could be done to realistically achieve the ideal outcome – this is addressing the problem together - and compromise with one another if necessary in order to move forward.