Conflict is a normal occurrence in any workplace. It happens when people disagree sharply on ideas or interests. When conflict occurs, it usually results in increased absenteeism, lower morale, increased animosity and lower productivity. Therefore, the ability to handle and resolve conflict effectively is vital for the success of any team or organization.
Here are some of the causes of conflict in the workplace:
- Differing values – Most workplaces are made up of individuals with different world views. If people are not willing to accept these differences, conflict is inevitable
- Poor communication –This is likely to bring about misunderstanding amongst co-workers or between managers and their subordinates
- Differing interests – Everyone has personal goals which they are pursuing. When these goals are not consistent with organizational goals, conflict is likely to occur
- Personality clashes – Every workplace is comprised of individuals with varying personalities and temperaments. Failing to accommodate different personalities is a major cause of conflict
- Poor performance – When some team members fail to perform according to the expectations, conflict could arise
If handled properly, conflict can lead to professional and personal growth. Some of the benefits of successful conflict resolution include:
- Enhanced group cohesion – Resolving conflict successfully can help co-workers to develop a stronger sense of respect for each other
- Improved understanding – As people work through conflict, they learn how they can accomplish their objectives without disparaging those of other individuals
- Enhanced self-knowledge – In situations of conflict, people get the opportunity to re-examine their goals and get a renewed understanding of what is important
Here are some steps you can take towards resolving conflict:
1. Summon the aggrieved parties
The best way of resolving conflict is through discussion and negotiation. Immediately signs of conflict appear, you need to have a meeting with the aggrieved parties. You could meet them separately first before meeting them together. Apply active listening skills to grasp each person’s point of view. Restate and paraphrase their words to be sure you have understood what they are saying.
2. Collect information
As you listen to the parties, take note of the underlying concerns, needs and interests. You should also attempt to understand their goals as well as motivations. In addition, you need to gather information concerning the effects of the conflict on productivity. Is it disrupting team work? Is it causing delays in delivery to the customer? Is it affecting decision making?
3. Agree on the issue
Due to differing interests, goals and needs, people see things very differently. Therefore, before finding a solution to conflict, you need to come to a consensus on what exactly the problem is. Have a discussion with the aggrieved parties and agree on the problem that needs to be solved.
4. Negotiate a solution
Take time to brainstorm on possible solutions to the conflict. Make sure the solution agreed upon is mutually beneficial to both parties.
Resolving conflict is never easy. However, when dealt with in a non-confrontational and respectful manner, situations can be calmed down and solutions found. The key is to focus on issues rather than personalities.