Conflict is inevitable when you're a leader. It's how you handle conflict that will determine whether you grow and propel your people forward, or disrupt momentum and divide the team. When it comes to team conflict, the faster and more effectively you deal with it, the better your chances will be for a positive outcome. I see team-building as a process of conflict and collaboration. It's the combination of these two things that leads to strong relationships and creative solutions in the workplace. If you want to get the most out of your employees, you should know that conflict can be a great motivator. Here's how:
- Constructive conflict encourages civil discourse and open communication.
- It instills a problem-solving approach, thus fostering collaboration among teammates.
- Constructive conflict ensures transparent communication between all stakeholders throughout the corporate ladder.
- It welcomes out-of-the-box ideas to keep the organization growing.
- Constructive conflict helps in avoiding frustration and suppressing resentment due to pent-up issues.
Companies can empower teams through conflict. In order to resolve workplace issues and leverage them for boosting employee productivity, you need smart decisions and swift action.
Causes of Workplace Conflict
The first step to resolving conflict in the workplace is understanding the underlying causes of the dispute. Some common reasons behind workplace conflict include:
- Poor leadership skills in the senior management and team leads.
- Bad communication patterns within the team.
- Inadequate training at the beginning of the job, leading to unequal contribution and unfair expectations from team members.
- Unclear job roles and designations.
- Lack of resources like tools, software, and machines required to complete a job.
- An unsupportive work environment where the employees see no growth.
- Employees’ resistance to change due to fear or uncertainty.
- Unequal opportunities for all employees.
- Workplace politics or favoritism from leaders.
- Unfair competition between employees to achieve a higher position.
- Workplace bullying, harassment, and personal threats to safety and health.
- Work-induced stress that generates negative emotions like anxiety and lack of concentration.
What are the Consequences of Workplace Conflict?
As an entrepreneur, I am always striving to build teams that stay motivated and share my passion for achieving purpose-driven and impactful goals. I often ask my teams to speak up and challenge a point of view if they don’t agree (yes, even mine!) but this can sometimes lead to conflict. As I’ve mentioned, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: it’s all in how you manage it. Poorly managed conflict can lead to some undesirable consequences, such as:
- Unmotivated staff - It’s natural for employees to feel stressed and have low morale because of unresolved conflicts in the workplace. When a disagreement goes on for too long, employees feel concerned about their role and future in the company and may lose motivation.
- Poor internal communication - Conflicts create distrust and group politics within an organization, further weakening internal communication.
- Low productivity - When employees put most of their energy into engaging in conflict, it leaves them with zero to no time or energy to get work done.
- Degraded KPIs - As the productivity rate goes down due to disputes, companies fail to achieve their key business objectives, ultimately hurting their growth and revenue.
- Mental health issues - Continuous arguments trigger mental health issues like anxiety, depression, loneliness, and poor self esteem
- Absenteeism - Employees who can’t afford to leave their jobs tend to take frequent leaves if conflicts become a norm. They feel the need to take some time off and recover from burnout.
- Employee resignations - A toxic work culture accelerates employee resignations due to mental stress and frustration.
- Bad public perception - If the workplace conflict goes public, it creates a bad image of the company. It can put off prospective clients, future employees, and impact the judgment of loyal customers.
- Wasted resources - Time is the most valuable resource for any growing company. When ugly conflicts arise, companies stand to incur a lot of wasted time in the form of conflict resolution sessions, therapy, settlements, lawsuits, etc.
- Brunt on revenue - Conflicts have financial repercussions too. The negativity impacts the customer experience, and a hostile work environment leads to massive staff turnover, leading to additional costs to hire and train new employees.
Keeping these concerns at bay, when a strong leader utilizes civil discourse to resolve conflict, they can turn workplace disputes into a positive experience. Some ways this could transpire are:
- Empathic communication - If employees acknowledge a problem and sit together to discuss it, they can understand each other's perspectives. This makes conflict resolution in the workplace easier.
- Emotional sharing - Civil discourse gives employees the opportunity to express their negative feelings respectfully by avoiding any pileups.
- Creative problem-solving - When employees are motivated to resolve workplace conflicts, they come up with unique solutions and creative ideas to tackle the problem.
- Civil approach - Constructive conflicts can bring teammates together, allowing them to understand all kinds of opinions. They can trace it back to the root of miscommunication and resolve their conflict through civil discourse.
- Identifying the leadership spirit - At times of crisis, new leaders are born. Team members can exhibit leadership skills during conflict and emerge as strong leaders in the future.
How to Prevent Disagreements in the Work Environment
Some conflicts are inevitable. But with the right measures in place, many can be prevented before they start. Leaders should be proactive whenever possible, and strive to put out the spark before it turns into a full-blown fire.Here are 5 steps to effectively prevent conflict among your team:
- Have an open-door policy
When you create an environment of open communication, team members feel comfortable sharing their concerns with you. Let everyone know any team member can approach management without the fear of repercussions. Practice active listening, ask constructive questions, and foster the spirit of teamwork in them.
- Focus on building relationships
If you focus on creating strong and transparent relationships among your employees, they’ll be able to tackle conflicts without an issue. Due to their positive relationship, they’re also more likely to be empathetic and civil throughout conversations.
- Lead by example
Invest in leadership training programs for your senior staff who can take on more responsibility in the future to teach them how to handle difficult conversations. With a few tools at their disposal to conduct civil discourse and avoid animosity between team members, they can steer conflict management in the workplace effectively.
- Encourage employee interactions
Senior management should take steps to encourage employee interactions irrespective of conflicts. There will be fewer disagreements and more informative discussions if employees have the habit of interacting with each other.
- Offer incentives and training
A great way to encourage teamwork is by assigning incentives to achievable group targets. Once a team reaches the target, the collaborative teamwork gets rewarded. If the team struggles in working together, hold training sessions for them.If you implement such activities in your workplace, they’ll evolve as a part of the employees’ daily life. They’ll learn to interact civilly and find common ground in the face of conflicts to foster the company’s growth.
How Great Leaders Solve Conflict in the Workplace
To resolve conflicts in the workplace, great leaders take a wide-angle view of the situation. They establish the environment for civil discussions to carve a way through disagreements. Good leaders align the team to achieve a common goal. Here are the 5 things great leaders do to resolve workplace conflicts:
- Identify the source of conflict
The first step separates great leaders from average ones. While most employees focus on the problem at hand, good leaders know the reasons behind disputes are often deep-rooted. They acknowledge the concern honestly, considering the needs of all involved parties.
- Create a safe space to communicate
Instead of playing blame games and wasting time on allegations, leaders need to create a safe space for communication. Gather all parties in conflict and allow them to present their perspective without angering anyone.
- Listen to all sides of the story
When resolving a conflict in the workplace, good leaders keep their biases aside. All the employees who want to voice their concerns get a platform to speak upon. The leader doesn't interrupt or threaten the employees, but seeks active resolution based on their feelings.
- Practice civil discourse
Foster the environment of civil discourse and encourage conversation in your team. In most cases, resolving conflict in the workplace is all about understanding everyone's situation and analyzing the driving force behind any conflict. With civil discourse, it's easier to conclude conflicts in the agreement or respectful disagreement.
- Implement a plan to tackle conflicts in the future
The final step to conflict resolution is implementing a model to deal with similar issues in the future. This includes a healthy exchange of ideas, building trust between team members, and following civil etiquette. Through sustained effort, workplace conflicts can be reduced significantly.Conflict resolution in the workplace is one of the most challenging tasks for a leader. By taking the right measures to tackle disputes and conducting civil discourse, you can easily resolve conflict at work and collectively guide your team towards success.