Handling and resolving conflicts that arise in the workplace is one of the biggest challenges managers and employees face. Typically there are two responses to conflict: flight (avoidance) or fight. In either case, we often feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied with the results because no resolution has been achieved. By handling situations on the front end, we can turn a negaitve, unproductive situation into an opportunity for greater teamwork and enhanced performance.
Here are a few 5 tips on how you can minimize and/or avoid workplace conflicts:
Define your expectations
Clearly defining both employer and employee responsibilities is integral to minimizing workplace conflicts. Simply put, this sets the stage for mutual respect and understanding. Job descriptions and supervisory feedback can assist in accomplishing this goal.
Work through issues as early as possible.
Make a point to handle issues as they occur, and not wait until they get out of hand. Addressing potential conflicts may be uncomfortable, however, this practice can help avoid serious conflicts down the road.
Be upfront and direct when addressing conflicts. Handle issues face-to-face if at all possible. Do NOT verbally spar via email, as this usually only inflames the situation (it's difficult to judge the tone of an email) A good rule of thumb is: if you reach three emails on a subject without understanding, pick up the phone or go visit the other party to open the lines of communication and decrease frustration.
Use your ears.
Learn to be an effective listener. Give the person you are communicating with your full attention and listen intently to what they are saying. Ask questions if you don’t understand, but give them the floor. Through careful listening, you will learn about what is expected, issues that my need to be resolved, or how you may be disconnected from someone else.
Stick to the issues.
In trying to resolve conflict, it is tempting to resort to name calling or bring up issues from the past. In order to minimize workplace conflicts, it is important to address specific behaviors and situations if change is to take place.
Manage your reactions.
We all overreact in some situations – it’s just human nature. In the workplace, it is important to manage your reactions. It is best to listen, evaluate and plan a response or action rather than just react.
At some point in everyone’s career, they will be faced with a workplace conflict. In order to minimize the drain on productivity, good flow of ideas, and positive morale, take the initiative and implement these tips into your HR processes. Your stress level will thank you for it!