How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict is an important part of the human experience, and it can be a powerful tool for your own growth. It helps us examine our beliefs and attitudes, and gives us a chance to test the limits of our abilities. When used effectively, conflict can lead to positive outcomes such as a better understanding of an opposing viewpoint or a new solution to a problem. However, conflict is not always beneficial and can cause harm to the people involved. The key is to recognize the warning signs and take proactive measures to address them.

It’s helpful to distinguish conflict from a disagreement, which is simply a difference of opinion. According to Richmond and McCroskey, there are two types of conflict: substantive and procedural. Substantive conflicts are concerned with issues such as the goals, tasks, and resources of a project. For example, a software engineer may want to use one program for project tracking while the project manager prefers another. The software engineers and project managers may disagree about which program is best, leading to a substantive conflict.

People who have experienced trauma or adversity in their lives often view conflict as dangerous, humiliating, and demoralizing. This may be due to early life experiences or unhealthy relationships in which they experienced powerlessness or rejection. As a result, they tend to avoid or sedate their feelings of anger and fear during conflict. This is a challenge when dealing with other people, as it can prevent them from communicating openly and resolving disagreements.

Conflict in the workplace is inevitable, but it can be reduced with good communication and teamwork. Having an effective management team that is supportive and able to handle difficult situations will help alleviate many problems before they escalate into conflict. It’s also helpful to have a process in place for addressing conflicts, such as a meeting with the involved parties. This allows for everyone to voice their concerns and work towards a mutually beneficial resolution.

If you notice that a member of your team is working harder than usual or seems to be more stressed, it could be a sign that there is conflict in their personal or professional lives. If they are avoiding colleagues, displaying unusual levels of anxiety, or seeking reassurance from you frequently, it is likely that their emotional well-being is being compromised.

Conflicts can be very subtle or extremely obvious, and it takes a keen eye to see them in the workforce. It’s important to learn to recognize the early warning signs of conflict and act quickly, before it becomes a full-blown crisis. In addition, it’s essential to follow up with employees after a conflict has been resolved to ensure that the solution is effective. This can be done through surveys, face-to-face conversations, or joint debriefings. By taking the time to resolve these issues, you can foster a healthy and productive workplace culture.