Conflict evokes different emotions, depending on past experiences, friendships or relationships. How someone manages conflict often stems from what they’ve learned and how they’ve been brought up.
For most of us, we see conflict as something that is fought, that is won – yet within the modern workplace, managing conflict works much differently. Considering that everyone manages conflict in a number of ways, it’s important when working in a management role to understand how conflict can create positive outcomes for relationships. It’s not always about achieving the best outcomes for one person, rather for everyone involved.
Dr Jeannie Trudel, MBA Program Director at Excelsia College, shares her strategies for managing conflict using a set of behavioural techniques best fit for the workplace.
Encourage direct communication
This strategy is key, and should play a role in every conflict resolution. Understanding your co-workers' thoughts and feelings on a particular issue can only be identified through fluid, open conversations. Direct communication enables the venting of emotions and a ‘clearing of the air’. When you recognise the motives and emotions of each party, you will be able to move forward.
Agree to move forward with a solution
Another critical strategy is ensuring that both parties move forward with an actionable solution, in a timely manner. If it’s an information or data-driven conflict, ensure that you have the answers to all questions or determine what else needs to be resolved, to then be able to outline an agreed process for the future. If you see someone is not in the right place at that moment in time, agree to come back later to work through the issue.
Find common ground
Communication also plays an important role here – if an interest-related conflict occurs, be expressive about what exactly it is that you need from one another and identify potential concerns. Finding common ground or shared interests will help you work towards a solution quicker – for example, you both want to do your job well or you’re both under tight time restraints. This also opens you up to explore multiple options when looking to make a fair and acceptable decision.
Recognise different points of view
A common form of conflict in the workplace can be differing values amongst co-workers. Like in normal everyday life, it’s essential that we recognise and respect different viewpoints. They shouldn’t play a significant role in how people work within a team, or within an organisation. A way to tackle differences (if it develops into something more problematic) is going back to shared interests and finding common ground, and working through the situation from your shared values.
When dealing with conflicts and disputes in the workplace as a leader, it pays off to keep these strategies in mind – not only for yourself, but for your employees to emulate and learn from.
Dr Jeannie Trudel is the MBA Program Director at Excelsia College and she recently shared these thoughts in the webinar 'Managing Workplace Conflict'. You can listen to the webinar below.