When you think of people you work with, they often seem like your family outside the home. Disagreements come up sometimes between family members, and they also come up sometimes among members of your work family. Not all conflict is bad, and some disagreements actually stimulate creativity and innovative ideas while team members are working through disputes. Since unresolved conflicts can fester, resolving conflict in the workplace as a manager is an essential skill that can help you restore balance in the workplace.
When conflicts are not addressed and keep worsening, the workplace seems like an outright battlefield. When that happens, the situation can’t be ignored and resolving conflict in the workplace as a manager becomes more urgent. The key to restoring peace depends on listening skills and other communication skills along with calmness and collaboration.
Carefully Listen to all Sides
There’s no resolving a conflict without knowing exactly what’s going on, and things aren’t always what they appear to be. Once it’s clear that a dispute needs to be addressed, set up a meeting with the people who are in conflict. If possible, meet in an area where you’re not likely to be interrupted by others.
Managers need to have a variety of communication skills, and one of the most important of them is listening. Carefully listen to all sides, and let the participants know that they’re not to interrupt each other. Each should have the opportunity to explain their perspective.
Practice active listening skills by being completely focused on whoever is speaking and let them know they’re being heard. Make eye contact, nod where appropriate and ask questions if anything needs to be clarified. Pay attention to body language and facial expressions, since sometimes nonverbal cues aren’t consistent with what’s being said.
Calmness is Crucial
The way people react to conflict can affect the outcome. When those in conflict become angry or emotional, things can quickly intensify. The parties in conflict should be instructed that emotional outbursts won’t be allowed and that they’re to avoid blaming each other. Treating each other with respect isn’t optional. Work on keeping the interaction calm and professional, which depends on staying calm yourself. The last thing you want to do when resolving conflict in the workplace as a manager is to lose control of your own emotions.
Your role in this meeting is to act as a mediator. It’s possible that one of the parties may seem to be clearly in the right, but as a manager, you have to avoid giving any sense that you’re choosing sides. Stay focused on the problem, not on the individuals. As long as everyone stays calm, there’s a better chance that everyone can think clearly and come up with the next logical step.
Collaborate and Find Common Ground
Being able to communicate calmly should help those in conflict to feel ready to collaborate and brainstorm possible solutions. Each party may not be able to have everything they want, but by collaborating, they may be able to find a solution that allows both of them to have at least part of what they want. When they’re actively involved in finding a logical solution, it improves the chances that whatever you decide on together will be acceptable to everyone involved.
Once common ground has been identified, the next steps should be clear. Set up a follow-up meeting to check and see whether the solutions you’ve come up with together are working or whether they need further tweaks.
Every situation is different, but each time disputes arise, you’ll get better at resolving conflict in the workplace as a manager. Take advantage of opportunities to improve your leadership skills whenever you can.
Reach out to Peaceful Leaders Academy to find out more about conflict resolution training and coaching.