You can avoid it, but you can never really escape it. Workplace conflict is part and parcel of any leadership role. If you can’t handle a simple misunderstanding or settle a major argument at work, you will not be an effective leader. It is your job to recognize a conflict, figure out why the conflict arose and find a way to settle the conflict before it becomes a full-blown headache for you and the company.
It’s easy to spot the different symptoms of a conflict, especially if you spend a lot of time with your staff or co-workers. There will be a noticeable drop in their motivation, and there will be less participation from them during meetings, social gatherings, or even volunteer work. Their productivity dips and they will be taking sick leave more often, just to skip work. Overall, there will be a big change in their behavior.
The most common conflicts in the workplace usually stem from poor management. Other times, it can also be about unfair treatment, or unclear job responsibilities, poor communication, a bad working environment, the shortness of equal opportunities, or even bullying and harassment.
Have a Quiet Word
This is the first and most important thing that a good leader should do when conflicts arise. Set a time with the person/s involved and arrange to meet somewhere you will have privacy. Let them air their grievances and really listen. Listen to what they say and take notes if needed. Give them the floor to freely express how they feel and what they think. Avoid zoning out by thinking of how you will respond or react.
Just getting them to talk about the problem is an accomplishment in itself, because not everyone will be open or even willing. Make them feel comfortable and avoid interrupting them while they talk. When they’re done talking, make sure that you understood everything correctly, by rephrasing what they said and asking questions to further clarify.
Follow it Up With Action
Once they have finished airing their side and you have acknowledged everything that they have shared with you, it’s time to recognize the points of agreement and disagreement. It’s time to do something to resolve the conflict.
Depending on the kind of conflict that you’re dealing with, it can be swiftly resolved with an apology or even a handshake. Some will be more serious and may take more time. Prioritize the most urgent or most important conflict between both parties. Develop a plan to resolve it, and make sure that you both keep working at the solutions until each area of conflict is resolved.
Compliment them for every success achieved or goal accomplished. Even if it’s just a small thing, don’t forget to say congratulations. That’s still progress. Keep the communication lines open until, eventually, you reach that point where everyone is happy and satisfied. It’s not going to happen overnight. But with commitment and communication, workplace conflicts, no matter how trivial or serious, can be resolved sooner rather than later.