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How to Combat Workplace Conflict

10.18.11

Whether it's quibbling over poached office supplies or serious harassment, tension and disagreements in the office are inevitable. Experts say managers spend around 25 percent of their time resolving conflict, making avoiding and diffusing it a necessary skill for every manager and business owner. Combating conflict can be a complex conundrum, but here are some tools that will help.

Avoiding Conflict

Though it’s impossible to completely eradicate conflict, there are steps you can take to lower the number of incidents that emerge.

Communicate Clearly- Poor communication is the number one cause of workplace conflict. Be detailed when giving instructions or setting expectations, and make sure your entire team is kept equally informed. Remember communication is not a one way exercise, and that listening is an equally important component. Utilize email or your internal social network as an easy way to field employee feedback.

Minimize Competition- Co-workers who become too engrossed in competition for projects or promotions can foster hostility and bitterness which can lead to confrontations. Build a team where advancement is tied to finding the best fit to an employee's skills. This way everyone understands that attempting to undercut or discredit their colleagues is not the path to a promotion, and instead focus on improving themselves.

Build a Strong Team- One of the best ways to avoid conflict is to consider potential employees' personalities when hiring them. People who show combative or overly aggressive traits in interviews or past positions will likely have a similar same disposition while working at your company.

Diffusing Conflict

When workplace conflict inevitably does arise, you can minimize the negative effects by having a plan and being consistent in each new situation.

Be Direct and Listen-  When conflict arises, address it with the combatants expiditiously. Whether you are involved in the disagreement or merely mediating, ensure everyone individually shares their perspective while others quietly listen. This makes people feel valued and keeps them calm so the situation can be resolved peacefully.

Encourage Compromise- The key to resolving conflict while minimizing fall-out is give and take. For example, let employees whose family commitments often keep them away from the office work virtually. This way their responsibilities don't fall on their colleagues and cause a conflict. Each employee should feel respected and that they've gained something after successful mediation. This outcome will usually bury the issue so it doesn't become a long term problem.

Have a Contingency Plan- Just as conflict is unavoidable it is often insoluble. People are not always able to work through their differences, but mature professionals should always be able to come to an mutual understanding. Try to avoid pairing employees who have unresolved conflicts, and allow them to take advantage of flexible scheduling options like telecommuting so they're not forced to interact unnecessarily.

Written by AdvantEdge Staff

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