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How to Identify and Resolve Workplace Conflict

When people interact and work together within the same environment, conflict is bound to arise. Even after thoroughly screening and interviewing applicants, frictions and disagreements are inevitable when the recruits start working together.

Workplace conflict can happen in various ways. It can be between two team members, among the whole workforce, between team leaders and team members, and between managers. Although identifying and resolving workplace conflict can be tough, conflict management can provide meaningful learning and growth opportunities to the involved parties.

Let’s now look at how to identify workplace conflict and end with some tips for resolving it.

Identifying Workplace Conflict

1. Team Members Have Different Objectives

An effective team must have a well-defined objective to ensure everyone is moving in the same direction. When team members have different objectives, communication breakdown and disagreements will arise because everyone will consider themselves to be on the right track.

2. Unhealthy Competition

Competition among employees is a crucial aspect of the success of any company. But when workers focus too much on outdoing each other to the extent of jeopardizing collaboration and cooperation, the results can be disastrous for the company. Some of the common signs of unhealthy competition include arguing too much over information, lack of teamwork, show off, creation of unhealthy alliances, and more.

3. Dysfunctional Meetings

If meetings meant for brainstorming ideas quickly turn into sessions for airing grievances, then there are issues that need to be resolved. If only a few individuals dominate the meeting while other participants seem upset or distracted, then that could also be a sign of a looming conflict.

4. High Turn-over

Are employees leaving at a high rate? No one enjoys the hassles of searching for a job. So, if people are leaving as soon as they join, then that could be a sign of an internal problem that needs to be solved.

5. Inappropriate Communications

Inappropriate communications can come in the form of impolite emails or text messages full of inappropriate words. The use of offensive language or a lack of tolerance for other team members’ opinions is a sign that a conflict may occur soon.

Tips for Resolving Conflict

1. Deal with Conflict Right Away

When conflict happens, don’t stay away from it or go on with your work as if nothing has happened. Over time, the negative emotions will pile up and even a small disagreement will quickly transform into a full-blown conflict. Resolve issues immediately before they happen to avoid having problems and negative emotions become part of everyday work.

If a conflict develops between team members, talk to them and help them resolve their issue. If it arises between two teams, find ways to enhance interdepartmental communication. If it’s between you and one of your team members, resolve it as soon as possible and in private.

2. Make Space for Giving and Getting Feedback

Allowing employees to share feedback is an important step towards finding the best resolution. Keep in mind that this is a challenging task, particularly if the tension between everyone involved is still high. But there are steps you can take to cultivate psychological safety and trust to facilitate tension-free conversations.

Start by setting a clear objective for the meeting. A clear objective helps keep the involved parties from blaming each other, and instead focus on finding a way to overcome their conflict and work together as a team. Ensure the meeting provides a space where conflicting parties feel free to share feedback.

3. Identify Points of Agreement

You can resolve the disagreement only when you have identified points of agreement. As a facilitator, you must give everyone an equal chance to speak and be heard. Listen keenly, avoid taking sides, and note down some important points. Focus on finding a common ground that the conflicting parties can support.  For instance, if the disagreement is about the best program to convert word to PDF, you should listen to both parties and identify the commonalities.

4. Follow Up

Once a suitable solution to the conflict has been found, it’s imperative to follow up with the parties involved to assess the implementation process. Conducting surveys, face-to-face conversations, or joint debriefs are great ways to do a follow-up. If you find out that the solution isn’t bringing the desired results, you can go back to the drawing board and develop an alternative idea.

The Bottom Line

Knowing how to identify and resolve conflict can help you find long-term solutions to problems before they become entrenched into everyday work. You should also encourage your workers to discuss work issues by building a culture of open communication at work. And a great way to create an open environment is by paying attention to employee concerns and addressing them.

Looking for more ways to manage conflict?

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Last updated: 23 Oct 2020

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