Managing Conflict at Work
Workplace conflict is an unavoidable consequence of dealing with differing personalities and work habits in a workplace. Effectively managing conflict is arguably the hardest thing a manager has to do. Unfortunately, as a manager, if you’re going to do your job, you have no choice. Since avoiding workplace conflict is a near impossible feat, be prepared for how to handle these circumstances in advance. Here are a few suggestions for dealing with workplace conflict.
Stay Calm – Even when provoked, keep a close hold on your temper; stay as calm as you possibly can. Don’t let emotions escalate or drive decisions. However, do let individuals express their feelings. Some feelings of anger and/or hurt usually accompany conflict situations. Before any kind of problem-solving can take place, these emotions should be expressed and acknowledged. Each member of the conflict should have a chance to say what is on their mind in a respectful and safe manner.
- Deal With the Issues –
First of all, if you are a manager dealing with conflict you should: recognize that there is a conflict, be objective, and be fair and consistent. What will help in any conflict would be a human resources liaison who can moderate and ease the tension. HR personnel are an unfailingly objective third party. Short of calling in HR moderators, it would be helpful if there was a written code of conduct from which to read and guide employees when a situation arises.
- Document – Whenever a conflict arises be sure to document the event. Who was involved? What was the resolution? If a pattern of conflict emerges, it is possible that one or two employees may turn out to be the “common factor.” In this case, documenting for potential future incidences or, unfortunately, termination will be needed.
- Determine Follow Up – After a workplace conflict, whether it is related to work or is personal, it is critical to follow up. You may want to schedule a follow-up meeting in about two weeks to determine how the parties are doing. Did the issue continue to fester? Was it completely resolved? Has it impacted workflow or morale in the office? Determine what you’ll do if the conflict goes unresolved. If the conflict is causing a disruption in the department and it remains unresolved, you may need to explore other avenues. In some cases the conflict becomes a performance issue, and may become a topic for coaching sessions, performance appraisals, or disciplinary action.