August 9, 2021 | 4-minute read (607 words)
There will always be some tension when people interact in the office. People aren't terrible, but they don’t leave their beliefs, experiences and habits at the door. Conflict is the outward manifestation of these disparities, amplified by the pressures of daily life and the office.
How to handle conflict in the workplace
Internal conflict arises in every organization, so how can business leaders effectively deal with it? Liz Kislik, a workplace conflict management expert, delved into five strategies business leaders can take to ease conflict at work during a powerful TEDx talk.
Rule out the possibility that a single challenging individual is responsible for the tension
Unfortunately, one individual who is either a bully or incompetent in their job could be the source of your workplace problems. Conflict will likely arise if a bully exhibits poisonous habits or an incompetent individual makes disruptive errors. If either of the latter is the case, a leader should make the tough choice of removing the troublesome bully or inept employee or counseling them. This approach may be sufficient to reduce stress in some environments.
Get input from individuals on the front line
When we're seeking the root of a problem, our initial impulse is to turn to our department head or supervisor for help. However, since they are too far away, these leaders may not have a complete view of the issue. Connecting with employees at the level where the dispute is occurring is a more effective technique. These people are immersed in the “fight” every day and will have the most realistic picture of the situation.
Also, make sure you interview a variety of employees as each may only be able to provide you with one piece of the puzzle. Some questions can help start the discussion: Is there anything you could do to enhance your work? What do you consider is going on here, in your opinion? What is your pet peeve here that truly irritates you when someone does it?
Responsibilities must be clearly delineated
A fundamental misunderstanding of duties and responsibilities or a blurred line of command is a typical source of workplace conflict. There is sure to be friction between two employees who think they are both accountable (or not) for a specific assignment. Reiterating job duties, responsibilities and decision-making processes will ]clear up any ambiguity.
Get assistance in spurring changes into action
Even the most well-conceived strategies and conflict management are useless if they aren't put into action and reside only on a piece of paper somewhere. Change happens slowly, especially in a big company. Getting buy-in from your company's top executives can help you achieve the conflict culture transformation you want.
Provide workers tools for effective communication
Teaching your staff how to communicate in a constructive manner will accelerate progress toward a conflict-free atmosphere. Some individuals are oblivious of the detrimental effect their communication style has on others. Teaching them interpersonal communication practices gives them effective tools for expressing emotions and concerns. Improving communication skills will create a healthier, less conflicted environment over time.
Putting everything together
By the conclusion of these steps, you will have either ruled out the possibility that your workplace dispute is caused by a single troublesome individual or handled such an individual accordingly. You will have clearly defined your work roles and enlisted key leaders to help with the cultural transformation. Furthermore, you will have instilled improved communication practices among staff to improve the work environment. Now you are on your way to having a smoothly running business! Remember that while improvement won't be quick, the benefits of better staff morale and retention are worth the effort.