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Addressing Conflict in the Workplace

Working under pressure means that sometimes  conflict is unavoidable. There are, of course, many things that can be done to minimise conflict in the workplace, these include:

  • Organising team building activities and encouraging team members to socialise outside of work.
  • Spreading the workload as evenly as possible.
  • Training management well and ensuring  that everyone is aware of their specific job role.

When conflict becomes an issue in the workplace, there are steps you can take to resolve it.

Communication

The most important tool for creating a good workplace atmosphere is communication. People, especially those in management positions who will be required to settle conflicts, need to be trained to resolve issues while allowing discussions to carry on. It is important to take a calm, reflective approach to this. If you have been tasked with resolving conflict, consider that emotions may be running high, and make it your mission to dissipate any animosity before issues can be discussed.

Ask calm, considerate questions to all parties, allowing for everyone to have their say. Try to encourage each party to see things from the other perspective – maybe you will need to rephrase some of the things said. If needs be, talk to people involved separately, allowing them to fully elaborate their issues.

Professionalism

When tensions are running high, conflicts can become personal – this is of no help to anyone. If a conflict has turned from a work-related issue into a battle between two people, then this needs to be resolved and the focus needs to be returned to the work issue at hand. Remind people that they are in a professional environment and they must be respectful towards each other’s ways of operating. It is also important to note that different personalities are part of what makes a business tick; their ways of operating may come across as ‘wrong’ but actually they’re just different. Make sure that any personality conflicts in the workplace do not carry on simmering, try to nip them in the bud.

Bullying and Harassment

It may seem like a step much further than your regular conflict in the workplace, but bullying and harassment are common in business. With tensions running high, strong characters or people who actually feel threatened can feel the need to bully others. The key to reducing workplace bullying is by not enabling it. This may seem obvious, but many working environments allow for bullies to thrive by not noticing it or by seeing it as part and parcel of working in a tough environment. It may be as simple as one person’s ideas always being shut down in meetings; on its own this doesn’t seem like bullying, but over time this will destroy the confidence of the person it is affecting. Confront the persecutor; it’s probably the case that they see themselves as strong and decisive and will be horrified with accusations of bullying. Talk to them; try and see if they can put themselves in the other person’s shoes. Notify them that this kind of behaviour is not tolerated, and don’t always wait for the person on the receiving end of the bullying to complain – nip the problem in the bud. More insidious cases of bullying: emotional abuse, sexual harassment and any violent conflicts should be handled with a much firmer hand.

Conflicts in the workplace are bound to happen. However, by taking these tips into consideration, you can minimise these, while making sure that they do not negatively harm the relationships within your business, and the business itself.

Do you have any tips for handling conflict in the workplace? Tweet us @kingstonsmith and let us know!