We all know that conflicts are part of life, we can’t always get along with everyone, all the time. But when we experience a dispute with others in the workplace, it can feel intense as you may not be able to approach it in a way you would do in your personal life.
In a work environment, you will need to maintain some form of relationship with co-workers as you’ll most likely need to continue to work together professionally, following a disagreement. It can get pretty awkward for you and those around you very quickly if issues aren’t resolved or at the very least addressed and discussed.
If you manage people or work in a small business, or team then here are some skills that will help you when it comes to resolving conflicts:
Effective Communication – Being able to communicate effectively will help to reduce the risk of misunderstandings happening both with peers and as a leader. If your team know what is expected or needed from them, there is little opportunity for conflict to occur. As a leader it’s helpful to encourage an open-door policy for communication to allow anyone feeling unheard or that may have any issues, to feel free to air them.
Active Listening – We all want to feel we’re being heard, especially in a conflict situation. If you’re in a position where you’re trying to resolve a dispute, then actively listening to what each party are saying and helping to support them to hear each other is key. When emotions are high it’s very easy to switch off our listening skill and only hear what you want to hear! (Interruptions and talking over people are big no-no’s as well!)
Language and Tone of Voice: As I’ve touched upon above, where emotions are involved, conflict can often escalate very quickly. By being mindful of the language you use, and your tone of voice it can help diffuse any disagreement quickly. This is really important when it comes to email and text communication which lots of us are using more and more in a virtual world, as the tone of these are harder to gauge and can be mis-read easily.
Intervention – As much as we’d love to always be able to resolve our issues or those of team members, there are just sometimes that we need to engage an unbiased third party. This can often be the case where you’re experiencing conflict with someone who seems to repeat behaviours or seems to always be at war with someone. You see, the behaviours we display don’t always reflect what is actually happening and we don’t always know what is going on in their lives. Engaging with a professional intermediary can help support a repair to the relationship. (Also, sometimes people just behave better in front of someone they don’t know that well!).
When we go into conflict with those around us, it may not be driven by the actual event itself. It can be that we’re reacting to other frustrations in our lives that we can’t control, and it spills into work. I find it’s always a good practice to take a step back and look at the reasons you’re reacting in a certain way, or perhaps as a manager, have those open conversations with employees about other things going on for them.
As I’m sure you’ll know, working in line management or HR you need to grow a thick skin and learn not to take things personally, more often than not the anguish is not directed at you. The same can be said when it comes to conflict, it may not be what has been said, rather an underlying issue that is the cause. It’s our job to get to the root cause and have those conversations with people.