Conflict At Work

How to Manage Conflict at Work

5 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Author
Lynsey Sutherland

Conflict at work is common, even in a harmonious team or relaxed company culture. That’s not always a bad thing. Conflict can ultimately strengthen your team.

How common are disputes between staff members? The CIPD found that just over one-third of employees have experienced them. If that sounds high, we agree. But the important thing isn’t trying to avoid conflict altogether, but finding good ways to handle it. 

Creating a positive, productive company culture benefits everyone. Before we jump into ways to resolve conflict, you might like to investigate strategic employee rewards to improve your team productivity. Ultimately, a good benefits package improves recruitment and retention. Read more about how Mo can help you attract and retain happy employees with an environment in which people feel validated.

What is Conflict in the Workplace?

Conflict in the workplace can manifest in different ways. At its core, conflict is a state of discord caused by a clash of ideas, needs, or personalities. A few examples of common sources of conflict include:

A failure to meet expectations

Is an employee failing to live up to your hopes? Are they feeling disillusioned by broken promises regarding workplace culture? Maybe a member of your team is disappointed about a certain project. A mismatch between expectations and reality can often cause conflict, making employees feel disconnected from goals and objectives. 

We all want to do well at work. When problems get in our way, they can result in conflict.

Opposing creative ideas

Creative, high-performing teams tend to be very passionate about the way they do things. When those methods aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, it can cause discordance. This kind of conflict can be a good sign that your team is engaged. However, you shouldn’t let it continue unchecked. 

Conflict and personality clashes

The more diverse your team, the more resilient it will be. However, that blend of different personalities and work styles can sometimes lead to clashes and difficulties. 

Anger or unresolved issues

Personal reasons often cause conflict. Stress at home or unresolved anger issues manifest in the workplace with little warning. We should use a firm but fair process to determine what the core issue is. Remember, a healthy resolution to issues is always possible — so don’t give up too quickly.

Providing a flexible work structure and work-life balance will support your employees’ well-being.

Why is it Important to Manage Conflict Effectively?

Ignoring conflict is not a good idea. Line management has a responsibility to help resolve their employee’s issues. While some problems seem to disappear on their own, there’s a chance that resentment remains. Irritation can result in a much bigger problem in the long run and could even contribute to a toxic workplace

Having the necessary skills to handle conflict is important, as aggressive involvement can worsen the situation. Problem-solving and conflict resolution are essential for every manager.

Engage in active listening. When resolving conflict at work, it’s important to make your team members feel heard through constructive conversation.

What Are the Benefits of Effective Conflict Management?

A supportive working environment and positive relationships can greatly enhance our experience of work; conflict can seriously undermine it. Negative conflict at work also seriously undermines people’s performance and productivity.’ 

– CIPD, Report: Managing conflict in the modern workplace 

When you handle conflict well, you create a calm and supportive workplace where people can confidently do their daily tasks. 

Small work disagreements are common. However, if we do not address these disagreements, they can escalate and negatively impact wellbeing and employee engagement

ACAS analysis shows that conflict at work costs over £1,000 per employee in the UK annually. This equates to just under £3,000 annually for every individual involved in conflict. This highlights how much dealing with conflict in the modern workplace can benefit your budget.

How to Manage Conflict in the Workplace: An Action Plan

Step 1: Identify the conflict. What is the root of the conflict? Who is involved? As a manager, you must investigate to find out what’s happening and handle it.

Remember to stay impartial, factual, and empathetic. Poor communication is often a culprit, so don’t fall foul of “he said, she said” statements. 

Step 2: Understand the perspectives of the people involved. Talk to each person impacted by the conflict separately to understand their perspective. Listen actively and make it clear that you want to help resolve the conflict in the best way for everyone involved. 

Step 3: Find common ground. What do the employees involved in the conflict agree on? What are their shared goals? If you can find things you agree on, you can address conflict. 

Step 4: Develop a solution. Work with the people involved in the conflict to develop a solution that meets the needs of everyone involved. This may require compromise, so make sure all members are buying in at every stage.

Our goal is to improve employee morale and foster a high-productivity company culture. A good resolution is in everyone’s interest.

Step 5: Implement the solution and monitor the situation. Once you have developed a solution to the conflict, it’s time to implement it. But don’t just brush your hands and assume your job as their manager done. Make sure to monitor the progress of your solution and check in with everyone involved at a designated time. 

Changing employee behaviour or resolving deep-seated issues may take time, but it’s highly beneficial in the end. 

Quick Tips for Managing Workplace Conflict 

Dealing with conflict at work is no small task. Managers can perpetuate issues, so it’s important to handle disputes professionally and with empathy. Here are some tips to help you make sure you prevent conflict. 

Be impartial and objective. Avoid letting your feelings get in the way, especially when other people are struggling with their own emotions.  

Be respectful of the people involved. There may be good reasons for their unhappiness. 

Listen. Pay attention to what your employees say. They may have a valuable point of view for you to consider.

Avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions. Even if you think you know the cause of the issue, investigate thoroughly before making any decisions. It’s hard to take back words – and even harder to rehire an employee.

Compromise. Asking your employees for flexibility will only work if you are also open to the same. 

Practise patience and persistence. Managing conflict can take time and effort and not all issues are easy to resolve. As a manager, you need to step up to help your team thrive.

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