Managing conflict at work
Bringing a diverse group of people together in a small space and giving them a deadline could definitely make things complicated.
Work is work. It isn’t play. Sure, we may enjoy it, but most people don’t go to work as a hobby. All those people have their own ideas and goals and they may not always agree.
That conflict is often complicated by stress, stress that can be caused by elements at work or may be brought to the office in the morning. Those elements can be external or internal. While we can look within to take care of our inner demons and set aside our internal stressors, the external ones often need to be addressed at a corporate level. That’s not to say we can wipe our hands and expect management to take care of the issue, far from it. The external solutions need to be a collaborative effort to achieve our mutual goals.
To address the various conflicts at work, we should understand what those causes are.
- Poor communication
“Can you tell Billy to let Becky know that Shamus is going to be by with Hector’s work schedule after Adrian finishes it.”
That’s a mouthful that’s going to invite a conflict. Why? Everyone knows the issues with the telephone came as communications break down. Poor communication and miscommunication are significant causes. I may not understand certain words the same way you do and that’s not even talking about they’re, there, and their. Some people don’t communicate well while others communicate too much.
- Personality clashes
Sometimes people just don’t get along. One may be introverted while another is not. Someone who has a straightforward way of speaking, may not understand that others need a more constructive way of communication. Speaking your mind may seem appropriate to some, but it sounds like you’re barking orders to others. When you add a deadline for different personality types, you add yet more stress.
3. Different values or work styles
With such a diverse workforce, there are going to be differences in work styles and values. For instance, someone from Europe or Asia may have a different value set than those from North America. They both have their valid points, but they can often cause friction when trying to work together. Another clear difference comes from different generations. The baby boomer generation has different expectations, both personally and professionally than generation X. People can feel alienated if they’re opinion isn’t shared. Value differences often manifest in intolerance and name-calling.
- Unhealthy workplace competition
Competition can be healthy, but if you have people that are too competitive or if the stakes get too high, it may not remain so. For instance, having a modest bonus is a good thing to motivate employees, but if you base that bonus on how well they compare to each other, you may find some employees just don’t want to compete. It’s best to have them compete against themselves rather than each other.
How to address conflict
Now that you understand where the conflict can come from, you can address them. Here are 7 things you should be mindful of to reduce conflict.
Don’t avoid conflict
Hiding from conflict only makes it worse when it boils up later. You need a mechanism to let employees air their grievances in a way they feel like others are listening.
People may roll their eyes when they hear about empathy training, but it works. When you learn to understand how someone else feels, then you can see how their perspective can affect a conflict. A co-worker may be having a bad day from something not related to work at all, but if we don’t have empathy, we’ll never appreciate they have a valid position too. We aren’t always right.
Pro Tip: Write down the points that you agree and disagree on so everyone understands.
Stick to the facts
Conflict comes from our feelings, but when it comes to managing that conflict, the facts won’t change, only our perspective of them. Speaking about facts will help you understand your goals and as a consequence, your emotions won’t have an exaggerated effect on the outcome.
Focus on the lesson
It isn’t about punishing someone, but making sure that the conflict doesn’t happen again. If we focus on the end result then there won’t be winners and losers and consequently, sore feelings, from any conflict.
Focus on what you agree on
If you look at how you agree rather than disagree than you can focus on what brings you together not keeps you apart.
Pro Tip: Celebrate your team successes so everyone feels the positivity.
Communicate company values
When the company espouses their good values, employees will embrace them. Giving employees a set of rules to live by and you see fewer questionable decisions.
Much like your company values, when employees are empowered to make certain decisions, then they feel like they are a part of the solution.
Pro Tip: When a team works together, they can create a mutually beneficial plan.
Practice positive employee relationships
Being proactive to build positive relationships will create a rapport in your team to weather storms caused by conflict.
When you promote an active listening style, we slow down and hear what the other side is saying before we let our pre-existing ideas cloud our thoughts.
Disagreement isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When we don’t agree, we can come up with new solutions. It’s important; however, that we don’t allow that disagreement to turn into conflict. Whether it comes from management or the front line, being able to observe the conflict constructively will permit us to value the opinions of others. Being positive is your solution to bringing your team together.