Have your conflict management skills been tested lately?

Easing workplace tension and conflict

As Australian businesses strive to become more diverse and inclusive, it seems inevitable that the mix of unique cultures, beliefs and ideologies will lead to an increased risk of workplace conflict.

Each employee holds his or her own ideas and work ethic that may grate on another's ideals. Just like when tensions become heated at a family reunion, even the most strongly bonded workplace team can butt heads from time to time.

Ongoing tension is generally a source of reduced productivity and morale, but well-placed conflict resolution techniques can turn workplace clashes into opportunities for growth and innovation. When two or more team members disagree, it often leads to increased creativity and determination as each individual attempts to prove the other wrong.

As a team leader, it is vital that your conflict management skills are up to the task of mitigating hostility and negativity in place of fostering innovation and passion. Effectively resolving workplace conflict is not only good for immediate relief of tension, but can also develop long-term cohesiveness, ensuring that next time employees butt heads, they do not require a managerial middleman to help solve the issues.

Are your team members at odds with one another? Have differing views caused rivalry and conflict? Here are three quick tips to help you turn the conflict into a learning opportunity.

  1. Identify the goal – Often, employees disagree because they hold unique beliefs regarding the end objective. If you help them accurately identify the overall goal, you may find their opinions begin to align.
  2. Listen to both sides – When conflict erupts, it generally means each individual strongly believes in his or her opinion. This means it would be worth hearing both sides of the story, to ensure you don't miss important factors each employee may have independently pinpointed.
  3. Be respectful of diversity – In some cases, conflict emerges simply because individuals are unsure or unaware of their team mates' cultural needs and beliefs. A healthy respect and knowledge of each member's background should help address this issue, while also broadening your team's objectivity.

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