How to Manage Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict is a natural part of any work environment and can be positive if managed properly. It can help people air grievances, overcome differences in working styles and improve teamwork for the future. However, if it gets out of control and begins to disrupt productivity, it can have a negative impact. Conflict can also lead to high turnover and the cost of finding, training and integrating new employees.

There are many causes of conflict, but it is important to understand the root of the problem to successfully resolve it. Often, the cause is a miscommunication. A simple misunderstanding can turn into a major fight between two individuals or between a group of employees. For example, Jason tried calling Mike several times but was not able to reach him. When he finally got a hold of him, he discovered that Mike thought 9:00 meant 9:00 in the morning, and not 9: 00 in the evening as Jason had intended. This caused a lot of resentment and a major conflict between them.

Getting defensive or taking things personally is another common source of conflict. When you are communicating, focus on ideas and issues rather than personal preferences or values. Use “I” messages, paraphrasing and active listening to ensure that you understand the other person’s viewpoint. Ask open-ended questions to learn more about the issue and avoid asking why questions which can trigger a defensive response.

When conflict becomes severe, it can lead to low employee morale and an overall dissatisfaction with the workplace environment. The resulting tension and frustration can drive some employees away, causing the company to lose valuable talent that is hard to replace. In addition, the lingering effect of conflicts can be felt even after they have been resolved.

There are ways to recognize possible conflicts early and prevent them from escalating into large, destructive problems. A good leader is able to look for warning signs and take action.

For example, a sudden change in body language or an awkward silence during meetings can be an indicator that something is up. An increase in complaints, especially about specific individuals or projects, can also be a sign of impending conflict.

It is important to define the problem so that all parties can compare and discuss possible solutions. Once this is done, it can be helpful to identify which areas are being disputed and determine if the disagreements are about tasks, personalities or relationships. If it is the latter, it may be time to consider seeking professional help. Regardless, it is crucial to address conflict quickly because the longer it continues, the more difficult it will be to resolve. For instance, arguing over a parking space is a minor issue that can be easily resolved, but a long-term fight about personality differences can devastate the working relationship and cause significant harm to the business. In such a case, the business should seek professional guidance.