How To Deal With Conflict In The Workplace

How To Deal With Conflict In The Workplace

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It is never easy to be a manager within a business. It is not only your responsibility to make sure that your employees are being productive within their roles, but also that they are happy too. One of the tasks that managers need to be able to perform, but that they might not know how to approach is conflict resolution in the workplace.

Unfortunately, the very nature of any workplace (that you have a number of different people all in one space having to work together) means that conflict is something that is going to happen from time to time. This means that even if you do your best to avoid it, you are going to need to understand not only why the conflict is happening, but what you, as a manager needs to do about it.

To help, we have put together our guide to tell you more about conflicts as well as conflict resolution in the workplace.

What causes conflict in the workplace

There are a variety of factors that can contribute to conflict in the workplace being an issue. Clashes of personality between employees is often a cause. You could even find that a different working style is enough to cause conflict that needs your intervention to be resolved.

Another common reason given for workplace conflict is down to resource. This could be physical resources such as office supplies or conference and meeting rooms. It could even be resources that relate to actual staff members, such as those who are shared across two teams.

Conflict can also be caused by workplace relationships, which is often the reason why these are frowned upon in many businesses. Of course, you cannot help who you fall in love with, but if you find that your relationship is causing conflict in your workplace then there are things that you are going to need to think about.

Communication is a word that you often hear in business and you will probably realise just how vital good communication is already. One thing that can occur when communication doesn’t work quite the way it should is that conflict can arise. Poor communication can lead to goals that don’t match, workplace stress, rumours, office gossip and also performance issues too.

The impact of conflict

It makes sense that conflict in the workplace isn’t a good thing and that the impact it has is largely harmful. The main thing that conflict can cause is stress and employee stress can lead to a reduced level in job satisfaction and can even cause your employees to feel angry, depressed and anxious.

In turn, employees who feel stressed are also more likely to become unwell, which then means that they miss work. Not only is this bad for them, but them being off also can put more pressure on their team and lead to an increase in stress.

What you might not realise is that conflict doesn’t always have to be harmful in your business, particularly in the long-term. The thing that you need to be able to do to minimise the negative impacts is to manage it effectively. Conflict, if managed properly can highlight communication issues, show that there are different working styles and also improve things for your business in the future.

How to deal with workplace conflict

So, how do you manage conflict in the workplace in order to make sure that it is as positive as possible?

There are a variety of steps that you can take, whether you are a manager, an employee or anything in-between. All of which can ensure that it is managed right and that it has the right outcome.

Report the conflict to the right people

When a conflict has arisen within a workplace it is vital that the right people know about it. In most cases, this will be a HR department, team or division. They will not only know more about the right path to take, but can also offer you some support and guidance on how best to deal with the conflict. They also may need to take over in the future should things not improve, so having awareness of it right from the start is going to be hugely helpful for them.

Offer mediation or ask someone else to get involved

In many cases the conflict will be able to be resolved between the employees with very minimal input from you. However, there can also be times when the only option in order to resolve things is to hold meetings, whereby you act as a mediator. You need to bring both the people concerned together, bringing any of the key issues that they have into the open.

This will not only clear the air, but will also ensure that the problem is addressed and the chances of future conflicts are reduced. If you don’t feel that you are able to be a mediator in the situation, then you are going to need to make sure that you find someone who can act on your behalf.

Take yourself away from the situation, take a breath and always count to ten before you react

Sometimes you might find yourself as the person who is involved in the conflict rather than one of your employees. We all have a responsibility to address how we react to problems that could cause us to feel angry or frustrated at work. It sounds like somewhat of a cliché, but sometimes all you need to do is give yourself space and time to make sure that you are reacting rationally and not emotionally. You can do this by simply taking some deep breathes and counting to then, as this will give you the space that you need to help you to relax and approach things properly.

Think about ways to improve communication

As we have already covered, one of the main reasons that conflict happens in the workplace is down to poor communication, or communication that is misunderstood. This means that in order to mitigate the chances that it will happen in the future, it might be a good idea to think about ways that communication can be improved within your team and in your workplace as a whole. This also includes that the goals that you have within the workplace are clear and that any resources are properly allocated in order to make sure that there are reduced reasons for conflict to arise.

Understand that there are going to be times that conflicts will happen

Sometimes, no matter what you do, conflict is going to happen. This means that one of the simplest things that you can do is to make sure that you just accept that there are going to be times that you simply cannot avoid it. This doesn’t mean that you should always accept it, but it will mean that you have better mindset and will be able to approach resolving it in a much more positive way.

Never ever ignore conflicts and hope that they just disappear

Whilst it is a good idea to accept conflict sometimes, that doesn’t mean that you should ignore it and not act. In fact, ignoring conflict could be one of the worst things that you do. Not only can it mean that the problem increases, but it can also mean that those involved will start to feel even angrier, possibly even directing that frustration to you. You may find that the conflict not only affects them. but also spills out into the wider team, causing ripples that are going to be even harder to control.  

Take a business management course

One positive thing that you can do to help with the way that you deal with conflict resolution in the workplace is to take a look at physical or online business management courses. These courses are designed to help you to be able to make sense of the approaches that you will need to take to help employees during times of conflict, and will give you the knowledge and tools to enable any conflicts within the workplace to be resolved as quickly as possible with minimal impact to the business as a whole.

Even with this advice, it is no secret that conflict resolution in the workplace is not the nicest thing to have to deal with. However, it is something that many managers and employees will come across at some point in their working lives.

Much like many things, it is important that you understand not only the impact that conflict can have, but also what you can do to minimise that risk too. Having this knowledge will not only prepare you just in case the worst should happen, but will also help you to be able to find the best way to resolve it and ensure that everything returns to normal as soon as possible.

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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