How to improve conflict resolution skills in the workplace?


Whenever people get together, the possibility of encountering conflict is ever-present. And when they are together in a work environment, the chances of conflict grow even more. To better understand why conflict develops in the workplace and what to do about it, go to Pollack PeacebuildingOpens in a new tab..

Why There Is Workplace Conflict

Many reasons explain why conflict originates in any work environment. Some of the most salient ones are:

Differences in Personalities

Mixing people with different personalities in a single team can cause an immediate spark of conflict. When a new team member is hired in a position of higher authority, conflict can grow even faster, coupled with resentment and frustration. This lends itself to work situations that are not productive and will not yield the desired results.

Unrealistic Expectations

If employers do not consider the needs of their employees, unrealistic goals can be set. If the expected work schedule does not match available childcare, resentment can grow, and motivation can fall behind. If these issues go unresolved, the whole team can fall apart and fall short of completing their assigned tasks.

Increase in Workload

If employees consider they are being made to work longer hours than what they were hired for, conflict may arise as a way for employees to express their resentment. Employees may feel unable to fulfill whatever expectations management has for them.

Other reasons may include:

  • Inadequate or insufficient training.
  • Unclear or undefined work roles.
  • Lack of equal opportunities.
  • Unfair treatment.
  • Harassment and bullying.
  • Poor communication.

How do you spot the first signs of workplace conflict?

Sometimes, workplace conflict is easy to spot. This may happen when you can hear employees arguing out loud in the hallway or when management is not satisfied with the performance of an employee, when there is an open rivalry between two teams, or when a manager is underperforming.

In other cases, conflict may be much more difficult to pinpoint, like when dissatisfied employees simply decide to withdraw from the rest of the team, when staff absences increase, or when goals are not met.

As an employer, you may also discover signs of conflict when your team members display a lack of motivation, when nobody wants to take on additional tasks, or when nobody has anything to contribute during meetings. You may also start hearing derogatory remarks about one or another of the team members, when productivity starts to decrease, or when the number of grievances from staff becomes more common.

Why should you nip conflict in the bud as early as possible?

By identifying what is causing the conflict early, you have a greater chance of resolving it and reaching an agreement among all parties involved.

As a manager, when you first start noticing signs of conflict, you may have doubts. You may believe that you are allowing your preconceptions to cloud the issue or that whatever you are sensing is not important and will blow over within a day or two.

Having well-established and open channels of communication is key in these cases since it allows employees to reach out to you as soon as the first signs of trouble start to brew. If you are in the habit of listening to your employee’s points of view at an early stage, you can stop this issue and prevent it from getting out of hand.

Diagnosing Conflict in the Workplace

Before concluding that there is conflict in your workplace and attaching a negative connotation to it, it is important to understand that not all conflict is bad. Sometimes it arises simply when issues are ignored or not handled properly. Avoid attempting to solve a problem when you have not fully understood it. Take the time to diagnose what is happening by looking for the root of the problem, and then determine if this problem is worth addressing and how. Keep in mind that, when harnessed effectively, conflict can strengthen company cultureOpens in a new tab. and result in a competitive advantage.

What is conflict resolution training?

Conflict resolution training aims to offer a way for two or more parties to find a satisfactory resolution to a problem or disagreement. In some cases, it may be difficult to determine how much of this conflict is personal and how much is work-related. Whatever the reason, the issue should be faced directly, and steps must be taken to resolve it. Allowing conflict to go unresolved in the workplace may lead to violence with unexpected and unpleasant results.

Diversity Training in the Workplace

People bring their own culture and wayOpens in a new tab. of thinking into the workplace. They may have their own understanding of their preferred way to deal with conflict, which may not match what their coworkers would think or do. That is why more and more workplaces have had to implement diversity training in the workplace.

Diversity training has grown in importance in the workplace. There are many laws that address diversity, such as the Americans with Disabilities ActOpens in a new tab. of 1990, the Equal Employment Opportunity ActOpens in a new tab. of 1972, the Age Discrimination in Employment ActOpens in a new tab. of 1967, and the Civil Rights ActOpens in a new tab. of 1964, all of which have been implemented to protect different groups and prevent discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or religionOpens in a new tab.. Knowing how to accept diversity and deal with it respectfully in the workplace is crucial to avoid conflict and ensure all employees feel respected and secure when at work.

Proactive Communication

Having open and effective communication channels is a must if a workplace wants to avoid conflict. Group members need to receive conflict resolution training in a timely manner to learn how to identify the most common causes of conflict within the organization. Through special techniques, conflict can be managedOpens in a new tab., and its roots can be identified to take corrective action.

Employees must be made aware of the possibility of conflict, how to spot its first signs, what the negative effects of unresolved conflict can bring to the employeeOpens in a new tab., the team, and the entire organization, and what steps they and their managers can take to prevent conflict or find an effective resolution when it does exist.

Conflict resolution training in the workplace should include:

  • Teaching team members how to identify the main causes of conflict within the organization.
  • Talking about which responses have been applied successfully in the past and which could be used now.
  • Holding an open discussion on different approaches and styles to conflict resolution.
  • Talking about ways to establish an environment in which open and honest dialogue is allowed to exist to avoid conflict but also once conflict arises.
  • An understanding of how to respond to situations in which anger is present and how to keep their own anger from making matters worse and escalating conflict.
  • Identification of best practices in order to seek effective communication, also including active listening during conflict resolution.

Organizations should be willing to accept the possibility of conflict and face head-on the idea that all employees should receive conflict resolution training in order to avoid these situations, identify conflict as it starts, and know how to respond to it efficiently to get it under control efficiently and proactively.

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