Conflict is almost inevitable. Just as conflict can manifest itself in varying degrees, there are many different reactions to conflict as well. Some will attempt to avoid conflict entirely while others are notorious for initiating it. At work, conflict can be extremely detrimental to morale, productivity, and employee relationships. It’s not always easy to address conflict directly, but there are preventative measures and best practices one can take to manage workplace conflict.
We’ve come up with a list of best practices for managing workplace conflict:
Causes of conflict are often derived from lack of clear communication. It is important to be upfront and clear about expectations in the beginning before letting things explode in the end. Misunderstandings and lack of sufficient information oftentimes initiate workplace conflict and being able to openly discuss discontent or confusion can greatly increase productivity. Also, remember to ask questions. It’s easy to make assumptions and call out behavior without truly knowing what is going on. Being able to articulate issues when they arise is important to prevent problems from spreading or from getting bigger. Clear communication can not only prevent conflict, but also help solve conflict as well.
It is important to understand that coworkers have different standards of what is and is not considered acceptable behavior. Make sure to not only understand company policies, but to also know when certain things may cross a line with coworkers. Some people may not like being approached directly while others may prefer a more assertive communication style. Unintentionally disrespecting someone’s uncommunicated boundaries can make professional problems personal. Understanding boundaries can help prevent unintentional conflict.
Everyone is different and it’s important to recognize that not everyone is going to be amiable to one single way of doing things. Differences are ubiquitous and agreeing to disagree is sometimes more effective than simply disagreeing. Additionally, recognizing and respecting varying degrees of perspectives are crucial skills to learn. Rather than focusing on the differences among others, focusing on yourself and how to effectively interact with others is incredibly useful.
Be Mindful of Posture and Tone
It is unbelievable how much posture and tone contributes to how people feel about one another. Especially in a situation where conflict is being addressed, it is imperative to be mindful of posture. Any wrong move can portray a negative outcome. When addressing someone, make sure not to sound accusatory and remember to call out behavior, not people.
Sometimes there is never a clear solution to a conflict. Learning to compromise can improve employee relations and also increase productivity. Additionally, compromise is a negotiation technique and understanding when and how to give and take is an invaluable business skill.
Not all conflicts will require a formal follow-up but checking in with people is usually a good thing to do. Sometimes conflict cannot be resolved in one conversation and may require even a couple checkins to make sure that things are moving forward. Following up with a situation is also a good preventative measure to ensure that issues don’t resurface in the future.
With these steps, conflict can be easier to manage.