Contrary to popular belief, workplace conflict is not always bad. In fact, it can be great. When employees enter a disagreement over the best means to achieve a goal in the workplace, that indicates that you have a team of people who genuinely care about the success of the business and the happiness of its customers. What could be better than that?
That being said, there are things you can do to make sure every workplace conflict results in a productive discussion on how to improve the company, rather than hurt feelings and stepped-on toes. Use these five tips to resolve conflict in a healthy and productive way in your organization.
1. Define Acceptable Behavior
Just like in medicine, preventative action can save you a lot of time and resources in the long run, so take steps to circumvent potential conflicts before they occur. It’s unfair to expect your employees to know exactly what is expected of them without being told, so create a clear and precise framework for what is acceptable behavior in the workplace (encouraging teamwork, respecting others, avoiding raising voices, etc). Once this has been established, share the statement in your knowledge management solution so that employees can access it and revisit it as needed. Consider calling a meeting specifically to discuss the statement and why it is important to the success of your organization and its members.
2. Pick Your Battles When There’s Workplace Conflict
Unfortunately, not every conflict can be prevented before it begins. But that doesn’t mean that every minor conflict requires a full-blown staff meeting. As a company leader, you can model appropriate behavior for handling conflict. Mature employees use their judgement and are willing to compromise where the stakes are not high.
3. Separate The Facts From Fiction
Some workplace conflicts require a little elbow grease to resolve. Heated conversations bring out intense emotions. During times of intense emotion, we often lose sight of what is true, what is an exaggeration, and what is downright false. In other words, we let our passion do the talking. This frequently takes the form of accusations involving absolutes like “never” and “always.” Accusations that include absolutes almost never represent the truth and discussions that involve them are rarely productive. Immediately encourage the discussion’s participants to take a step back. Is it true that one party always or never does the action being debated? Chances are, probably not. Pulling out a whiteboard and writing out the facts of the conflict will most likely reveal the situation is not as dire as the participants think it is.
4. Identify The Common Goal
Each member of your company wants what is best for the organization and for your customers. So if you find departments or coworkers approaching a disagreement that is getting out of hand, have each party identify exactly what their goal is, and write it down. Most likely, you will be able to boil the argument down to one common goal, whether that is to improve the customer experience, decrease time to resolution, increase brand awareness, etc. Once you have identified a shared desired outcome, it will become much easier to guide the conversation away from a heated debate and towards a civil solution.
5. Search For A Compromise
A common misconception about conflicts is that there has to be a winner and a loser; there doesn’t. Nobody loses when a solution to a conflict that will benefit all parties and the company is identified. To reach a win-win solution, first acknowledge that conflict is okay. Conflict is often the result of creative and independent minds collaborating to form new and creative strategies. The more opinions and perspectives you can add to the pool, the better. So bounce ideas and solutions off each other, and write each one down. The more you collect, the easier it will be to find a middle ground and make a compromise that suits everyone.
Every workplace conflict is an opportunity for growth, and for your team to move the company forward together. So when there is a desire to do so, a solution can always be reached. Listen to each other, be creative, write it out, and you will see your workplace discussions grow more and more productive with each day.