“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” -Thomas Paine
When you start working in an office, the one thing that you are bound to experience one day or the other is ‘conflict’. Conflicts are natural to happen but none of us enjoy dealing with them. Any conflicting situation can get aggravated, if not dealt properly.
According to a report, employees in the US corporations spend roughly 2.8 hours per week involved in a conflict. This aggregates to about 359 billion USD in hours waged that is occupied with – and dedicated to – conflict rather than on progressive output.
Surprisingly, around 85 percent of workers in the US experience some kind of conflict, out of which 25 percent have observed absence or illness due to clash while 9 percent have seen ventures nosedive due to office conflicts.
If you consider that you can escape conflicts by being extra careful, then you would be surprised to know that avoiding conflicts is near to impossible, especially when you are working in a close team of different people with diverse ideas to execute a single task.
Be it an employee or an employer, when you work in an office then you need to learn to manage the conflicts rather than circumventing them.
Here are a few practical ways of managing conflicts in the workplace.
1. Realize the Gravity of the Issue
When conflicts arise among employees, it becomes difficult to detach the emotions from work responsibilities. To manage conflicts, one needs to draw out of an emotionally laden situation to reasonably discuss the possible solutions. Contemplate the significance of the issue. Make sure your ego is not harming the organization.
In case of conflict, do not dodge it or pretend nothing has occurred. Otherwise, with time, you will experience more pressure and the conflict will get worse. So, handle these bumpy matters as soon as you can, before issues and negative sentiments become entrenched in daily work.
2. Define Satisfactory Behavior
As an employer, clearly outline job descriptions of all employees so that individuals know what is anticipated of them. Moreover, developing a well-articulated code of conduct to be followed by all employees will also help circumvent clashes. Clearly and overtly express what behavior will and will not be accepted in the workplace.
If a conflict is observed among workers, you should stimulate them to identify ways of sorting it out. In case of a clash between the two teams, you should focus on improving interdepartmental communication.
What if you have a conflict with one of your workers? It’s wise to address it right away and in private.
3. Involve a Third Party
Sometimes, the situation becomes so complex that direct communication between the two conflicting parties doesn’t yield any fruitful outcome.
This is the time to bring your clients into the equation and ask for their opinion. Be it an employer, an adviser, or a client, involving the third party helps in managing conflicts.
4. Listen to Each Other’s Perspective
This may seem like the most basic thing to do but it is the one most needed. Ask for the individual opinion of every person who is directly affected by the current conflict situation. All of the involved parties can write down the facts and figures on a paper to solve the conflict.
Or, you can also arrange a group discussion. Schedule the discussion in such a way that you can discourse for an extended duration without external disruptions.
During this discussion, every individual should have sufficient time to convey what he or she considers the other person or team needs to receive. Do not let any employee dominate the discussion or manipulate the matter. Every individual should discuss the differences and how he or she feels about the state of affairs.
Keep in mind that this is not the time to attack or denounce one another. Concentrate on the issue, not your outlook on the other individual’s personality. Listening should always be about acquiring understanding. Do not let yourself become intolerant or un-receptive to the other individual’s arguments.
5. Articulate the Issue
Most of the time a small conflict situation gets worsened when people start dredging up the history, combining the unrelated issues with the current conflict. Articulate the problem by asking everyone to write a problem statement and take everyone on board to decide what the ‘key’ issue is.
It is indispensable to offer your complete attention to the individual sharing his or her concerns. Do not interrupt the other person and ensure that you are receiving the message he or she expects to deliver. Re-articulate and reiterate what you have perceived to confirm understanding.
Not sure what to say? Try something like, “Let me ensure I comprehend the situation. You are distressed about _____ as _____.”
Ask for clarification if required. You can also request that the other individual reiterates an essential idea or rephrase his or her concerns in a manner that is simpler to understand.
6. Propose Probable Solutions
Once the problem is understood appropriately, critical thinking for the solution becomes easier. Brainstorm different creative, potential solutions to solve the problem.
Your discussion might mainly focus on the differences, but you can only solve the problem by identifying points of agreement. Try to transpire from the experience with positive feelings instead of negative sentiments.
Focus on synchronizations. Describe examples of occurrences in which you consent with the other individual or can see another perspective. For instance, if you do not agree on new marketing strategies, you might mention what you liked about the other individual’s proposal or the enthusiasm to work harder for the group.
Seeking agreement validates your inclination to look for communal ground and form an association around those conviction aspects.
7. Negotiate Effectively
One of the most effective steps to managing conflicts in the office is proper negotiation. All the participants can regroup for assessing the usefulness of a probable solution. Decide which solution guarantees better results by doing an experimental test of a certain, suggested solution.
If you are in a management position, you may sometimes need to arbitrate workplace conflict. Remember, do not take sides, ever. Understand that you are there only to support your workers solve their issues.
However, often you might have to lead the discussion. If your offended feelings are dominant, you may need to redirect the matter so your workers return to the actual issue.
If you are in a leadership position and can offer guidance on subsequent steps, highlight the affirmative phases of the process, and recommend relevant subjects or activities they can work through after the discussion.
8. Learn to Let Go and Forgive
The last and one of the most important steps in the process is to let go and forgive. Every conflict needs a clear solution that recognizes upset sentiments and discovers a way out that focuses on repairing them.
Say sorry. Tell the other individual you are apologetic for any unkind words or actions and mean what you say. You will also need to forgive the other being. Likewise, encourage your employees to apologize to one another.
Assenting only for the sake of appearances can bring about resentments that become profound over time, collapsing any advancement you have achieved together.
Conflicts in the office are common. When people from different backgrounds and with different opinions and goals work together, there is bound to be some friction.
As an employer, you might often encounter situations in which you have to act as a mediator. The best strategy is to stay neutral and not take sides. Give every person an equal chance to voice his or her concerns.
If you are an employee, learn the power of effective communication. It can sort out even the worst of the conflicts. Be receptive and open to disagreements. Respect the difference of opinion. When you disagree with something, let them know humbly, without sounding snobbish.