Are you ignoring conflict in the workplace?

Do you ever find yourself experiencing tension between different individuals in your team? This can be due to power struggles, jealousy, or even just someone having a bad day… Are you hoping it will simply resolve itself? Sorry to be the bearer of  bad news, I’m afraid this is unlikely and it will probably be  up to you as the manager to deal with it!  Nip it in the bud quickly so you and your team can get on with being productive.

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Here are some tips for dealing with conflict:

1. Define appropriate behaviour – having a definition for what you believe constitutes acceptable conduct will make it clear that certain standards of behaviours are expected at your workplace, and that some actions will not be tolerated – making sure that your employees are clear about this might deter some people from starting conflicts. If they do cross the line, your clear policy will make it easier for you to explain why you see their actions as inappropriate.

2. Identify tensions which could evolve into conflict – keep an eye out for areas of potential conflict before things actually start to go wrong. Intervene quickly to stop some conflicts from ever arising.

3. When an issue occurs, deal with it head-on – as soon as you start to have concerns about an individual’s or a group’s behaviour, step in and deal with the situation. Don’t let inappropriate behaviour continue – it will just escalate and become more of a problem.

4. Understand the different sides – meet with the antagonists together. Allow each person to explain their point of view, without being interrupted by the other party, so that both parties, and you, are clear about the reasons for the disagreement.

5. Ask for ideas on how to address the issue – ask the different participants how they believe the conflict could be resolved – what actions would they like to see the other party take? When disputes affect an entire team, holding brainstorming meetings and open discussions with the group can lead to solutions that the whole team is happy with.

6. Consider your role in the problem – work out if you’ve played a part in causing the issue – evaluate whether the tensions have emerged because of the work situation, and whether you can improve this.

7. Document everything – if you have kept records, you can use them to provide evidence for taking future disciplinary actions if the conflict cannot be resolved.

If necessary:

 8. Remove employees from the conflict – if a major disagreement occurs and someone loses their temper, it is important that they are taken away from the situation or the person/people that the dispute is with until they settle down.

9. Remove disruptive team members – sometimes personality clashes simply cannot be resolved, and can continue to be a frequent source of tension. Sometimes there are certain staff members in your organisation who constantly cause problems. If this is the case, consider moving people to different roles or teams.

And even if it appears to be over, it’s best to:

10. Follow up on the conflict after resolution – even when appropriate actions and sanctions have been taken, the problem may not have disappeared for good – talk to the individuals who were involved to ensure that no tensions remain.

Conflicts are quite common and you will eventually have to deal with one… sometimes people just don’t get along! Be prepared to do a lot of listening, try to be as fair as possible, and hopefully you’ll be able to work something out. Good luck!

The ability to handle conflict well is a trait of a good manager – if you want to learn more about effective manager skills, ask for more information about our Power2Manage programmes bespoke to your needs.