Addressing a conflict might be awkward, tense, or uncomfortable now, but resolving the conflict will be beneficial in the long run. If one can learn and manage workplace conflict well, it will benefit their employees, their organization, and his/her own professional growth.
Whether one is trying to mediate between team members or is directly involved in the conflict, one can try and follow certain steps and techniques when they are faced with workplace conflict.
Dealing with conflict ASAP rather than putting it off
Facing a conflict head-on is rather hard. But waiting too long to embrace and address it can negatively impact employee engagement and productivity. Encouraging accountability in the team pushes team members to take responsibility for having these difficult conversations. Do the hard thing ASAP and you will be glad you did!
Asking team members to communicate respectfully and maturely
Before the problematic conversation begins, all parties involved should make a commitment to be respectful. Remember that aggressive language, disrespectful body language, yelling, and other immature behaviors are off-limits. Once all these things are avoided, the team can begin to handle any workplace conflict calmly and effectively.
Finding common ground between the team members engaging in conflict
The most optimal way to handle workplace conflict is to start with what each team member agrees on. If one is directly involved in the conflict, slow down and focus on the goals of the team instead of who’s right. If he/she is mediating, observe the conversation and help point out the common ground the team members may not see.
Listening attentively when team members share their side of the story
Active listening is one of the most valuable professional skills one can possess. It is easy to begin sharing your opinion with little regard for the other team members involved and that’s just human nature! However, to find a resolution, one can step back and prioritize listening over speaking and that will ultimately encourage the other team members to do the same when it is his/her turn to speak.
Brainstorm possible resolutions as a team
Sometimes, it feels easier to work independently rather than collaboratively However, in order to reach resolutions that suit the team as a whole, one needs to work collectively as a team and motivate other team members to get involved as much as they can so that they feel a sense of ownership that can help prevent future conflicts in the team.
Identify the key takeaways and lessons learned from the conflict
Now that the team has handled the conflict, each member involved should identify what went well for him/her and what did not. They can introspect whether the conflict could have been avoided, could the conflict have been addressed earlier, or was it all smooth sailing? They should work with the team to gather leanings from the conflict so that similar situations do not arise in the future as they ultimately affect workplace productivity and efficiency.
Managing conflicts within a remote team
Since the outbreak of Covid-19, there has been an increase in the number of teams that function remotely in various organizations. Managing workplace conflicts within a remote team can present a unique challenge in itself. However, there are a few things one can do to set themselves up for successfully tackling workplace conflicts. These include:
1. Making the most of video and phone calls – The team must ensure that everyone has a chance to speak up about concerns, questions, or disagreements – if team members don’t, conflicts between team members can go undetected for months, hampering workplace efficiency and productivity.
2. Creating a platform just for feedback – As it can get more difficult to give feedback while working remotely, the team can create a feedback channel on their messaging app such as Slack, and Teams so that team members can provide feedback to each other and help raise different ideas and perspectives.
3. Asking team members for regular feedback – If one empowers his/her team through feedback, they can set up open lines of communication that will help them address workplace conflict earlier and even can be avoided altogether.
Performing all these things will eventually help the team build trust among itself, helping each team member know that although they might be working remotely, they can still speak up for themselves and handle the workplace conflict in a healthy, productive, and respectful way.
About the Author
Srijan is an IIM Kashipur first-year MBA student with prior work experience in the consulting domain. During his leisure time, he loves to play games, watch sports (F1, football, cricket) and take care of stray animals. You can connect with him on LinkedIn.