How to Effectively Manage Conflict in Your Workplace

Conflict at work is a painful reality and can lead to frustration for not only you but your employees.  And not resolving the conflict will only make it worse.

Certain workplace conflicts are easily recognizable such as employees getting frustrated at each other over differences on handling issues.  Other forms of conflict may be small, yet irritating events such as negative attitudes that never disappear creating a depressing work environment where employees repeatedly lash out at each other.  Whatever the situation, here are some steps to help you effectively manage conflict.

Understand the situation:  When an employee comes to you with a workplace conflict, investigate both sides of the issues before you try to settle the conflict.  You may be surprised that each situation is not exactly as it seems or presented.  Also, how can you know what action to take if you do not get some idea about what is going on?    

Acknowledge the problem:  Keep in mind what appears to be a small issue to you can be a major issue to your employee.  Acknowledging the frustration and concerns of your employees is an important step towards resolving conflict.  Never tell an employee, “Just don’t worry.  It isn’t that important.”  They would not have come to you if they did not think it was important to them.

Focus on the problem, not the individual:  Most of us have known at least one “problematic individual” from our work experience.  Discard your own pre-conceived attitude about people.  A person my not be the most friendly individual or may just have a personality conflict with another coworker.  This does not mean that they do not have a legitimate problem or issue.  Focus on identifying and resolving the conflict.  If after careful investigation and analysis, you determine that the person is the problem, then you can focus correcting the individual’s behavior. 

Communicate:  The goal in conflict resolution is for both parties to resolve the issue between themselves.  Allow both employees to express their viewpoint, but share your perspective as managers.  Facilitate the meeting focusing on helping them to pinpoint the real issue causing conflict.  Have each agree to attempt to understand each other’s perspective and not to talk over one another or automatically judge.

Take Action:  Do not let a conflict just stay in limbo.  Taking too long to handle the situation will create more issues where both parties become frustrated further disrupting the workplace.  Also, avoid using coercion and intimidation.  Emotional outburst or getting angry at the employees may stop the problem but only temporarily.  The odds are the problem will resurface.  At which point not only will you have the initial problem, but also angry feelings now directed towards you.  Remember we want to fix the conflict not become part of it.

How do you handle conflict at your workplace?

 photo credit

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About Patricia Knight
Hello and welcome. My name is Patricia Knight. Thank you for taking the time to view my blog. I’m a Human Resources professional who is currently pursing an MBA at the University of Nevada-Reno. I am an analytical, detail-oriented professional who believes that collaboration and negotiation are critical for successful employee relations between leadership and employees.

4 Responses to How to Effectively Manage Conflict in Your Workplace

  1. Erin Wootan says:

    Great post Patricia! I think the most critical point is to focus on the problem, not the individual. People tend to wonder why there is a conflict rather than what is the conflict. Focusing on the problem and how to solve it rather than focusing on why it was caused and what individual is to blame is great advice.

    • Thanks Erin for the comment! You are absolutely right conflict management is about resolution not blaming. If you are too busy making it about a particular person, you never solve the problem.

      Warmly~Patricia

  2. ireneyachan says:

    Great post! I think most of the time people get carried away and forget about what the initial problem was. Once people get defensive, all they want to do is to protect themselves in any way they can. Focusing on the problem is definitely the must! It’s ironic that I happened to walked past 2 guys this morning arguing about something at work and they were pointing fingers at each other.

    • Thanks Irene for reading my post! You are absolutley right. A person’s tendency is to get defensive when they are feeling they are being called out especially if the person delivering the message is attacking. It takes a combination of both how the message is delivered and receiving individuals oppeness to accept it. Both are responsible for the outcome.

      Sincerely,
      Patricia

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