An average manager spends about 30% of their time handling workplace conflicts, according to a 1976 research by Thomas and Schmidt. This was followed by a similar study in 1996 by Watson and Hoffman, which found that workplace conflict had increased to 42 percent of a manager’s time in recent years.
Judging from the number of clients that call us every day requesting for team bonding programs to help their employees to improve their interpersonal relationship, I bet that percentage is even higher.
Workplace conflict can be caused by a variety of factors: different work styles, backgrounds, genders, personalities, and skill levels. When these kinds of confrontations go unsolved, they might evolve into a much greater issue later on.
The ability to confront workplace conflict early on is critical to successfully resolving the problem. Unresolved or poorly managed conflicts can curb an organization’s growth by causing employees to spend more time engaged in dispute than working on organizational goals.
Here are 7 possible strategies to help you deal with workplace conflicts:
Be open to conflict
When a confrontation happens, do not ignore it or act as if nothing occurred. Tension will rise as time passes, and the situation will only worsen. Deal with these uncomfortable topics as quickly as possible, before they get ingrained in your daily routine.
Have a chat
Set aside a time and a neutral location where you can converse without being interrupted. Perhaps event outside your office.
When you do meet, make sure that each participant has enough time to convey what they believe the other side needs to hear. Allowing one person to monopolize the conversation or control the topic is not a good idea. Each participant should express his or her feelings about the conflicts and the circumstance.
Focus on the problem, not on the personality
Remember that this is not the time to criticize or assign blame. Respect each other and focus on the problem rather than your judgment of the other person’s character.
It’s essential to give your complete attention to the person who is talking. Do not interrupt the other person. Do not check your phone.
Make sure you’re getting the message he or she intends to send. Rephrase and repeat back what you’ve heard to confirm understanding. You might say something along the lines of, “Let me make sure I understand. You’re upset about __ because __.”
If necessary, ask clarifying questions. You can ask the other person to repeat a key point or rephrase their frustration in a way that makes sense to you.
Understanding should always be the goal of listening. Reacting inappropriately to the other person’s words or provocation it’s not a good idea.
Work towards reaching an agreement
Your discussion will primarily focus on the disagreements however settlement will only be feasible if you can find areas of agreement. Don’t talk only about the negatives, find and highlight areas of agreement.
Bring to light commonality. Give examples of times when you agree with the other person or see things from their perspective. If you differ on new sales strategies, for example, you may talk about what you enjoyed about the other person’s concept or how it motivated you to work more for the team.
Looking for agreement shows that you are willing to look for common ground and establish a connection based on those components of trust.
If you’re in a leadership position, there are times you may need to mediate work conflict. Don’t take sides, ever. Realize you are there simply to help your employees work out their problems.
It’s possible that you’ll have to steer the conversation. And if there are a lot of hurt feelings, you’ll probably need to redirect the conversation so that your staff can focus on the real issue. If you’re in a position to offer recommendations for next steps, emphasize the good aspects of the process and suggest relevant topics or actions they can work on following the meeting.
Every argument requires a clear conclusion that acknowledges hurt feelings and finds a way to start the mending process.
‘Please accept my apologies.’
Tell the other person that you’re really sorry for any hurtful words or actions you’ve said or done, and that you mean it. You’ll have to forgive the other individual as well. Agreeing only for the sake of appearances might lead to long-term grudges that erode any progress you’ve made together.