A startling number of people in the workplace find reasons to be at each others' throats. Citing research conducted by Harris Poll and AtTask, The Wall Street Journal reports approximately four out of five corporate employees said they had conflicts with their teammates and other workers over issues such as personality differences, availability of resources for projects, misunderstanding and priorities. That is a lot of room for unproductive disputes and bad feelings that can only drag the office down.
Conflict resolution is a key skill leaders can bring to the workplace, both to help settle differences between others and to end disputes they themselves may be involved with. At the end of the day, many misunderstandings stem from miscommunication and value clashes, which is something that can be addressed and resolved – perhaps not to the point where everyone is satisfied, but at least so that everyone can get on with their everyday work
Picking the conflicts to resolve
While most professionals don't want to engage conflicts in the workplace, sometimes it becomes a necessity in order to see one's own goals and initiatives through. That means the key to being successful in the workplace is not avoiding conflict, but knowing which ones to resolve.
The first step is being able to identify when not to become involved. Leaders and managers can often see these conflicts a mile away – they are outside their area of influence and do not pertain to their responsibilities. Or perhaps the disagreement is over an issue that they do not feel passionately about. Getting involved in conflicts that one has no stake in or does not care about has only downsides – it results in flared tempers and long resolutions for no meaningful output.
However, there comes a time where every person in the office – whether they be an intern, entry-level employee or tenured manager – must take a stand. It may be to champion their own ideas or simply voice their feelings that something is not being done effectively. These are the conflicts managers and leaders must engage in, and it is crucial they develop a winning strategy before going into these conversations.
The Wall Street Journal noted a couple of strategies to keep in mind if people want to emerge from workplace conflicts with productive results:
- Go into conversations understanding the problem and with a potential solution
- Understand that controlling emotions is pivotal and stay focused on what is being said during communications
- Make sure the right people are involved in the conversation
- Deal with disagreements or counterpoints immediately and do not let them become issues that hinder resolution
- Bounce ideas off trusted colleagues before entering any internal disputes
Conflicts are part of the workplace, but they do not need to be destructive. Knowing when to get involved and being well-prepared are key to ensuring everyone gets their way.