The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. ~ Thomas Paine
One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “What are some tips for managing conflict in the workplace?” This is because most managers want to know how to fend off major issues before they escalate. And even in the most congenial work environment, conflicts will occur. But this doesn’t have to create a sense of impending doom! When you effectively use the energy from conflicts in the workplace they also have the ability to transform your problems into opportunities. In fact, by incorporating the following steps your conflicts can become more manageable and take your problem solving methods to a whole new level.
Cool Heads Prevail During Times of Conflict in the Workplace
Conflicts get messy and complicated when they are steeped with emotion. Why? Both sides are passionate about their point of view and want to win! When someone is personally invested in winning they tend to lose sight of everything else. If things get too heated, this is when business relationships can be severely damaged. Bringing both sides together to discuss issues in a reasonable way will allow solutions to flourish. Additionally, separating the person from the issue will encourage discussion rather than arguments and debates.
When Managing Conflict in the Workplace, Encourage Proactive Problem Solving
When your employees start focusing on proactive solutions that’s when conflicts start to fade and problem solving thrives. Encourage and listen to all ideas and solutions. Create an environment that supports teamwork and discourages superficial criticism. If someone does drift back to their original position, ask them why other options couldn’t be considered. This gives each person a chance to carefully consider their proposals in an objective way. When managing conflict in the workplace, the more reasonable you are in finding solutions, the better opportunity you will have in garnering a compromise.
Objectively Analyze the Situation
It’s easy to have lots of ideas but finding out how viable they are usually takes extensive research. Ask your employees to get more details about costs, timelines and contingency plans. This will also give them the ability to see if a particular process is possible while they are looking for the best solution. Encouraging your employees to fill in these details also fosters ownership of the process. As they gain perspective, some of their original objections will be resolved and lose their power in preventing progress.
Find Out What Works and Build From There
As employees go through the conflict resolution process they will discover that cooperation is the best path towards successful results. When they demonstrate good teamwork, tell them specifically what actions you appreciate. Giving this consistent and positive feedback will likely guide them into a mindset that thinks more about the team and less about their own interests. If they get off track a bit, then point out why the goal of resolving the issue is important to the organization.
As a motivational speaker, I see many employees who think they are a team when in fact they are just a work group. They haven’t been coached into a “we” mentality. One of the keys to successfully managing conflict in the workplace is steering them away from the “me” mindset.
Have a Definite Resolution
You might encounter a situation where multiple solutions are equally good. However, if they all can’t be implemented then a choice has to be made. Often, your leadership position gives you the advantage of knowing what upper management would support. Once the final choice is made, briefly explain your reasons to your employees and stick to your decision. When managing conflict in the workplace, consistency is key. Unresolved conflicts will keep things unsettled, you’ll appear passive, and nothing will move forward. Even if the final choice isn’t celebrated by everyone, at least it gives closure to the conflict and that will be appreciated by the majority.
Managing conflict in the workplace isn’t easy, but with your assistance it can ultimately create a more cooperative, cohesive atmosphere for everyone!
About Colleen Kettenhofen, Leadership Expert, Motivational Speaker
CREDENTIALS: Colleen Kettenhofen is an international workplace and employee management expert, award-winning corporate trainer, and motivational keynote speaker. A media veteran, she has appeared on numerous radio shows across the country and has written more than 40+ popular articles on diverse workplace issues. Colleen has delivered more than 1,100 fun and entertaining programs in 48 states and five countries. She is the author of 10 published audio programs and two books including SECRETS YOUR BOSS ISN’T TELLING YOU.
Colleen Kettenhofen is available for keynotes, breakout sessions, and seminars by calling (623)340-7690 in Portland, Oregon.