When more than one personality and more than a single viewpoint collide, it is bound to result in workplace conflict. In fact, if you’re an entrepreneur, you can view workplace conflict as a positive thing too. After all, there is never any conflict if the people involved don’t care about what they’re doing. Thus, if you’re seeing workplace conflict in your business, it is likely that it exists because your employees are passionate about their work as well as your company.
This doesn’t mean that you should root for workplace conflict. On the contrary, workplace conflict is just the negative fallout of an emotion that can be channelled positively. In other words, if you and your business know how to deal with workplace conflict, then you may end up boosting your collective productivity and efficiency. Before you can run, though, you need to learn to walk. Walking in this scenario is nothing but understand workplace conflicts.
What Causes Workplace Conflict?
There is only one way by which you can solve a problem – find the cause and then go about defeating the cause. In the case of a workplace conflict, the solution is the same. If you understand the cause behind the workplace conflict, you’ll be able to resolve it in no time. The obstacle always is that the actual cause gets muddled in the effects of the conflict.
There are only two causes of workplace conflicts – emotional reactions and issues with communication. Typically, the latter comes before the former. Miscommunications lead to emotional reactions, which then spiral into conflicts. Miscommunications can be of any kind ranging from incomplete information being provided, incorrect information being provided, no information being provided or even misinterpretation of the information being provided.
For instance, if one individual sends out an ambiguous message, then it is possible that the other individual will misconstrue what was said and take umbrage at it. As a result of what he misconstrued, the individual will react and counter-react to appease his own emotional states. Emotional reactions take an individual’s attention away from logic and rational thinking which is how the negative spiral occurs. The trick, therefore, is to prevent said negative spiral by forcing individuals to become objective and logical again. Here are some tips towards the noble cause of dealing with workplace conflict.
Establish Guidelines for Acceptable Office Conduct
Many entrepreneurs think that people run businesses. They’re wrong. While people may run businesses, systems run successful businesses. Establishing a system can also help you avert future workplace conflicts and, if they do appear, resolve them. The requisite system is fairly simple. You need to establish guidelines for acceptable office conduct. The purpose of these guidelines will be to convey to your staff what is acceptable behaviour and what isn’t.
The same guidelines can even contain the organisational structure for your business which will allow people to understand the hierarchy under which they have to operate. Furthermore, you can have established rules and regulation for everything ranging from inter-departmental communication, work management, and even performance appraisals. Every position should also have clearly defined roles so that areas of interest don’t overlap between various employees. Finally, reward and punishment parameters can be defined in advance and followed so as to let your staff know what they’re risking every time they give way to their emotions and block logic.
Proactively Seek Out and Resolve Grey Areas
Creating an established set of guidelines for acceptable office conduct will be very helpful in resolving many types of common workplace conflicts. However, it will be impossible for you to devise any guidelines that will encompass everything. So, once you’ve established such guidelines, workplace conflict will only arise in areas that they don’t cover. However, you don’t have to wait for such conflicts to show up to resolve them.
It is possible for you to seek them out in advance and cater to them even before they manifest. This will require your workplace conflict radar to always be in the up and front position. The benefits are great, though. By nipping every workplace conflict in the bud, you’ll ensure that your employees remain buddies and work together to achieve success not only for themselves but also your business.
Prepare Your Managers and Leaders to Be Mediators
Unless you’ve been lucky or talented enough to create a team of self-motivated and highly talented individuals operating in an industry where creativity is more important than stability, then it is likely that you have a strict hierarchy in place. Such hierarchies mean that positions have been carved out for managers and leaders in various teams. Workplace conflict is as much the responsibility of the immediate manager or leader as it is of the individuals involved.
If workplace conflict affects someone’s team, then he is as culpable as the people in conflict. However, you can assign this responsibility unless you prepare your managers and leaders to handle workplace conflicts in their teams. Not only this, you need to give them the tools to deal with the situation. Usually, this means teaching your managers and team leaders to be mediators along with organisers.
When two employees get into a conflict, it is inevitable that the problem will reach their seniors. If their immediate seniors don’t know how to mediate between the two and come to a fair conclusion, then you can rest assured that the workplace conflict will end up in front of you. Therefore, in a way, by teaching your managers and leaders to be mediators, you’re making your business more efficient and taking the load off your own shoulders.
Always focus on what At Stake is for Your Employees
The fact that every workplace conflict is caused by miscommunication or emotional reactions is the broader picture. If you move in a little closer, you’ll find that such conflicts are caused by the interests of two individuals or departments not coinciding. This is neither good for the parties involved nor your business. You want everyone in your business to be pulling in the same direction. Hence, if this isn’t happening, then you need to delve deeper into why.
You need to understand what is at stake for the employees that are in conflict. It could be anything ranging from personal interests i.e. a desire to impress to concern about the task i.e. a desire to excel. In either case, finding a way to get those interests to coincide is in the best interest of your business. Once you’ve figured out the bone of contention, you can go about bridging gaps in vision, implementation, and performances.
A Workplace Conflict Can Be Turned To Your Advantage
Why would an entrepreneur work so hard to counter workplace conflicts? The obvious answer is to prevent drops in the business’s efficiency and productivity. However, an unobvious answer would be to boost the business’s efficiency and productivity. Consider the fact that workplace conflicts arise due to gaps in communication or systems. However, only the worst instances of such conflicts appear in the eyes of the manager, leader, or owner.
In the majority of cases, these gaps wouldn’t cause any conflict but only slow down the productivity of the business. Therefore, it can be said that a workplace conflict is a symptom of a greater more crucial problem i.e. a flaw in the system. Fixing such a flaw in the system even if there is no workplace conflict will result in a significant boost in productivity. This is how a workplace conflict can be turned to your advantage.