The mere thought of conflict in the workplace may lead to anxiety for some managers. The term “workplace conflict” can evoke negative images of inappropriate behavior, loud voices and heated exchanges between employees. While it is no surprise that most leaders try to avoid conflict, some conflict can be constructive when successfully managed.
When handled properly, differences in a work environment can provide the opportunity for employees to voice varying opinions without the threat of ridicule or embarrassment and may even promote employee engagement and team building. Below are some tips for leaders to effectively handle conflict in a way that can make the situation into a positive experience.
To develop an atmosphere in which employees feel comfortable sharing, leaders should elicit feedback from their team on a regular basis. Creating a positive and safe place to offer their opinion can be key to gaining insight into potential situations before they occur. While some staff members may appear more eager to speak up than others, checking in with each employee individually can help instill a feeling of confidence and a willingness to share views openly in the future.
When seeking feedback, leaders should remain present, be receptive to all thoughts or concerns and prepare to act when necessary. Failing to respond to an issue or suggestion can often be more harmful than not listening in the first place. By displaying openness, empathy and response, management can help cultivate an environment in which workers feel heard, valued and appreciated.
When a disagreement arises in the workplace, the affected employees should have an opportunity to share their experience unbiased. Before they have learned the details of a situation in its entirety, management should remain cautious about taking sides. This can help mitigate feelings of isolation and embarrassment by one side of the involved parties.
When working toward a resolution, managers should ensure the process is collaborative, providing all involved with constructive feedback as well as any relevant next steps to help ensure a mutual understanding of the situation. After an issue is resolved, leaders should follow up periodically with affected employees to assess progress, minimize further conflict and continue improving morale within the workplace.
Negative energy has the potential to spread rapidly through a workplace, sometimes even affecting employees who are otherwise content or uninvolved. In order to counter this, when conflict does arise, leadership should respond quickly to maintain positive employee morale and prevent discontent from extending throughout the workplace.
Conflict in the workplace can at times be unavoidable and, to some extent, is a normal and expected occurrence. If management and the affected employees remain professional and respectful toward each other and the situation at hand, it is possible to turn the event into a positive and constructive experience. By taking the time to listen, determine end goals and define the steps necessary to resolve the disagreement in a calm and friendly manner, managers can, in turn, demonstrate and promote a culture based on open discussion and trust.