Workplace conflict is unavoidable, whether you're a manager or an entry-level employee. While each situation requires a customized approached based on the issue and personalities involved, the same basic tenets apply to each situation. By following the following best practices, you can stop the problem in its tracks, find an effective solution and come out with office relationships intact.
Honesty is the most important aspect of successful workplace conflict management. Although beating around the bush is more comfortable, it obscures the real issue and makes it more difficult to come to a useful resolution. Radical candor gets all of the issues out in the open, so you can deal with them collectively. Although it can be painful, this approach often creates a sense of relief, since looking directly at the problem helps eliminate feelings of resentment and discomfort that have been bubbling under the surface.
2. Emotional Sensitivity
Employees handle workplace conflict differently. Confrontational people might start arguments, while shy workers might recede within themselves or avoid the situation entirely. To resolve a problem effectively, it's important to tailor your approach to the individuals involved. If you're dealing with a timid person, avoid shutting them down by choosing a discreet location to discuss issues, using a gentle tone and giving them time to process. A more aggressive person might respond better to a blunt, direct conversation. No matter who you're dealing with, it's best to address problems in private whenever possible.
Timing matters when it comes to addressing workplace conflict. In many cases, it's helpful to wait until all parties have had a chance to cool off. When tempers are hot, employees may be too blinded by anger or emotion to think clearly. This rule does not apply to situations that present an immediate danger to a client project or personal safety. If an argument escalates to a fistfight or if a conflict threatens to put your team behind deadline, it's important to deal with it on the spot.
Workplace conflict doesn't have to be a one-time problem that's solved and discarded — it can also provide a valuable team-building opportunity. In addition to finding a mutually agreeable solution, find a way to turn the problem into an opportunity for growth. If a difference in communication styles causes strife between employees, for example, figure out how each person can adjust their practices to create a more harmonious environment moving forward. Like personal relationships, office relationships require compromise and understanding. When team members learn how to adapt their styles and methods to accommodate others, it strengthens bonds, improves communication and enables cooperation.
Dealing with workplace conflict is rarely a fun experience, but it can be a valuable opportunity for growth. Whether you're mediating for a group or handling a problem with a colleague, a thoughtful strategy can lead to the best results.
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