Conflict in a workplace can be beneficial to an organisation's success by providing diverse ideas and encouraging learning and development. However, some conflicts can inhibit productivity, performance, and workplace effectiveness by inducing a stressful and unhappy environment. HR should intervene when disagreements are getting personal, conflicts are affecting organisational success, and employees are threatening to quit over the problem.
Tips to resolve workplace conflicts:
1. Talk and listen to all involved
When an employer listens to only one side of the story, the other parties might feel disregarded and unheard. Employers must talk and listen to all employees involved, including those who witnessed the situation.
Listening to all parties gives employers a better understanding of the situation and helps them devise better means of resolving the conflict. Listening to every side of the disagreement allows employers to act objectively. Taking an objective approach is particularly useful in making better decisions as it allows individuals to think clearly instead of emotionally. It is more likely that employees will take the organisation’s decisions onboard when their reservations and issues are given fair consideration.
Active listening skills should be used to reframe a discussion, and to effectively improve communication skills in counselling, training and conflict resolution.
2. Focus on the behaviour and situation rather than the personality
It is easier to make an assumption about people based on their personality rather than their behaviour or the situation. Consequently, poor outcomes may arise if a biased approach is used to resolve conflict. If an employee appears to be at fault solely because of their personality, then the organisation may be missing the underlying issue. Sometimes it can be a subtle sign that someone might be struggling mentally when others are finding them irritating. Therefore employers and HR managers should understand the subtle signs of anxiety to be able to implement effective practices early on that reduce conflicts between employees.
Cognitive bias is a systematic error in thinking that occurs when people are processing and interpreting information that affects the decisions and judgements that they make. It is commonly caused by limits on the mind’s attention, individual motivations, social pressure, emotions and mental shortcuts.
Having a biased approach towards a conflict resolution may lead to dysfunctional favouritism amongst employees and foster an unhealthy work environment. Employers should seek to look at the situation objectively and decipher faults from a moral and professional standpoint.
3. Identify points of agreement and disagreement:
Using reflective listening to objectively listen to the thoughts, feeling and perspective of another, assists in making the other person feel heard and understood. This requires active responses with body language and reflective words without interjecting your personal opinions or solutions.
When an employer listens to every party involved in a workplace conflict objectively, they can identify points of agreement and disagreement. Usually, employees resolve disputes when they engage in a discussion that leads to conclusions favouring their line of argument. The outcome would be favourable to both parties when their agreements and disagreements are narrowed down to specific points.
4. Develop a plan to work on each conflict
There are various ways of resolving conflicts in the workplace. It is vital to devise a specific and appropriate action for every conflict. Employers should seek a compromise that satisfies all aggrieved parties involved in the conflict.
Compromising should not be viewed as an easy way to evade the situation. Instead, it should serve as a means of easing the tension between conflicting sides and satisfying everyone involved. Negotiating in the workplace can assist with conflict resolution management by coming up with an outcome that is favourable to all parties.
5. Reflect on the situation and put practices in place to reduce future issues arising
After the resolution of conflict, employers must reflect and assess the situation. This reflection will provide a blueprint for preventing similar disputes and options to resolve future ones. Whilst different approaches may still need to be used for other conflicts, some may take a similar approach that has been used in the past.
Reflecting on the situation will not only help the organisation identify conflict resolution through certain strategies, but also assist employers to create processes that could reduce future conflicts in the workplace.
Uprise is a proactive employee assistance program (EAP) provider that improves employee engagement, retention and performance by enhancing psychological wellbeing. Learn more about how our program helps to proactively reduce employee stress.