Conflicts are an unavoidable aspect of the workplace, but how they are addressed and resolved can significantly impact team culture, dynamics, and productivity.
As a manager, dealing with conflicts involving your team members can be challenging, especially when multiple employees and hierarchical levels are involved. The way you communicate and act is just as important as what you choose not to say or do.
It is crucial to approach these situations with intention and careful consideration. If your employees perceive bias or believe that opinions and decisions were made without the full story, it can lead to long-term negative effects, fostering a culture of mistrust and animosity.
In this guide, we will highlight some of the most effective ways to go about resolving conflict issues in the workplace.
Pause and Handle Conflict Appropriately
When a team member approaches you with a conflict, it’s crucial not to react impulsively and risk saying something that could be used against you in the future. Taking a clear stance or expressing your opinion before gathering all the facts can have serious consequences later on.
Therefore, when faced with a conflict for the first time, it’s important to pause. Take a moment to process the information and focus on validating your team member’s feelings rather than taking sides.
You might respond by acknowledging the challenge they’re facing and expressing empathy, saying something like, “I understand that this situation is difficult, and I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated and disappointed. Let’s work together to ensure you don’t experience this in the future.” From there, you can discuss the next steps you plan to take to investigate the issue and help resolve it for your team members.
However, where situations become tense and complicated, it may be necessary to engage with a specialist employment lawyer to help bring the situation under control.
Foster Open Communication for a Stronger Team
Firstly, it’s crucial to establish a culture of open communication where your team feels comfortable expressing their concerns, facing challenges, and resolving conflicts. Building this environment starts with small actions like checking in with your employees during meetings, providing transparent feedback to highlight both strengths and areas for improvement, regularly asking your team members what they need from you, and actively following up with them.
These gestures increase the likelihood that your team will come to you when conflicts arise, preventing issues from being ignored or dismissed, and ultimately avoiding escalation.
Promoting Independent Problem-Solving
As a manager, it may be tempting to take charge and fix problems for your team members. However, it’s important to remember that your role is to help them develop their skills and grow. Instead of solving conflicts for them, guide them in finding their own solutions. Start by listening to their perspective and helping them identify the root cause of the issue. Then, encourage them to take responsibility and make decisions for themselves.
Ask thought-provoking questions like, “How can you improve the situation going forward?”, “What would you do differently if this situation happens again?”, and “Are you ready to address the issue with the other individuals involved?”. By involving them in the problem-solving process, they will gain valuable experience and become more empowered.
Creating a positive work environment is essential for team morale. When everyone involved feels they have contributed to the solution, they are more likely to feel empowered and satisfied. Additionally, acknowledge and give credit to employees who successfully resolve conflicts and demonstrate professionalism. This will highlight the desired behavior and set the standard for your team.
Effective Communication is Paramount
When addressing conflicts with your team members, it is crucial to choose your words carefully. Instead of sounding accusatory or sharing negative feedback outright, it is advisable to approach the conversation with questions and maintain a high-level perspective.
For instance, using a statement like “I heard there was a disagreement about the project approach” is more constructive compared to “I heard you responded poorly to the proposed project approach.”
Furthermore, it is essential to refrain from making assumptions and instead navigate the conversation by asking intentional questions about what happened. By doing so, you can facilitate a productive discussion and resolve conflicts more effectively.
Objective Approach to Conflict Resolution
When addressing conflicts, it is crucial to maintain objectivity. Regardless of personal opinions or experiences with the individuals involved, your role as a leader is to help employees understand the root cause of the conflict and find a resolution.
Avoid assigning blame and instead focus on what happened in the specific scenario. By encouraging employees to use “I” statements when explaining the situation, rather than pointing fingers at others, you can effectively identify the source of the conflict and facilitate a productive conversation.