Conflict management strategies for the workplace28 Feb 2018
Anyone who’s worked in an office knows that work conflict is something everyone experiences at some point. Recent data released by Australian non-profit AccessEAP, found that disagreements with managers and colleagues are two of the top 10 issues facing Australians workers today.
The question for leaders then is not so much will conflict arise (it always will) but rather, how can we more effectively deal with conflict scenarios when they do spring up?
Below are a few ways to more effectively tackle disagreements you find yourself involved in.
1. Confront conflict early
Don’t shy away from conflict, embrace it. This doesn’t mean picking a fight with everyone in your path, it’s about recognising when a conflict is happening and not avoiding it. The sooner you address an issue, the sooner it can be resolved.
When tense disagreements go unaddressed they tend to fester, causing a bigger problem to build. Deal with these things as soon as possible so everyone can move on.
When tense disagreements go unaddressed they tend to fester, causing a bigger problem to build.
2. Avoid email at all costs
Your computer screen is not the place to deal with conflict. When you need to talk out an issue, it’s best to do it face-to-face. Tones and intentions are so easily misread via email, using this method of communication tends to only make the conflict worse. Make the time in your schedule to sit down and hash out the issue with your colleague in person. We promise, it’s always the better option.
3. Use empathy
Many would argue that the single most important tool for conflict management is empathy. When you can put yourself in another person’s shoes and understand how a situation may have made them feel, you can better conceptualise why they may be feeling tense or aggravated. The end goal to conflict management is resolution and that means looking at conflict meetings as an effort to understand and reach compromise instead of an opportunity to squabble further.
4. Listen to understand, not to respond
When you’re working through a disagreement your focus needs to be on listening, not just getting your point across. Humans have a tendency to listen to respond, not to understand – fight this urge when managing a conflict. Use active listening with your college, repeat back what they have said (and how you interpreted it) to ensure you are getting their points. Remember, understanding their viewpoint is often the key to unlocking a solution.
5. Avoid judgmental phrasing
When you do respond, steer clear of judgment words. Anything that places blame or emphasises criticism should be avoided. Try instead to explain things through the lens of how certain actions made you feel. Starting your thought with “I have been feeling like …” or “I feel ..” to put emphasis on your perspective.
Anything that places blame or emphasises criticism should be avoided during conflict resolution.
6. Find your common ground
There is always common ground to be found between two employees. The first two areas you’re most likely to agree on are usually that there is a problem to begin with and what the worst conclusion to the conflict would be. Hopefully, the final point of agreement will be some steps to take moving forward. Remember, even small agreed upon steps can make big differences. Put effort into finding common ground as it will build trust and help resolve the issue.
Looking to improve? Contact ICML!
Whether you want to brush up on your own conflict management techniques or you’re aiming to improve the skills of your entire team, ICML has the course for you. Our Managing Conflict training teaches participants to better recognise the early signs of conflict and give you tools to effectively deal with it.
To learn more about how you can get involved, get in touch with us today!