Resolution of workplace conflict

It would be desirable for all staff to show up to work with a professional, understanding and non- discriminative attitude but unfortunately this is not always the case.  Workplace conflict causes a great deal of stress to many people every day and can often result in lawsuits and changing of workplace; but it does not need to get to this level is dealt with appropriately and knowledgably. There is the office gossip, the passive aggressive, the arrogant know-it-all, the shy and timid and the highly opinionated.  It is important to correctly identify and know how to deal with the many types of people you will encounter in the workplace, but equally importantly to understand your own personality and potential weaknesses.

An alarming statistic that I have recently come across states that workers who deal with unnecessary conflict in their workplace are 70% less productive in their jobs.  This makes sense because workplace harassment, sexual harassment and bulling can cause such emotional distraction that people are unable to focus on their professional duties.  For this reason developing conflict resolution strategies can be vital within any workplace.  Here are five tips that I personally have found extremely useful in dealing with conflict in the workplace including realising that conflicts are almost inevitable at work, to handle conflict sooner rather than later, ask questions and don’t assume, use non inflammatory terms and seek outside mediation when required.

In every workplace there are bound to be various opinions and different personalities clashing.  This is due to the fact that the workplace is usually a competitive area where all staff are striving for individual success and can sometimes put their own success above pleasantries and acceptance.  The best option for any organisation is to recognise conflict will occur and to focus on the positive and potential beneficial nature of conflict which allows the productive discussion of opposing views and allows the resolution of conflict in a positive constructive manner.  This allows many more ideas to be challenged, enhanced and put into practice at a much faster rate and is therefore an extremely healthy part of any businesses operations.  Don’t be afraid to challenge people’s ideas, it means that you care about your own opinion and think that it can add value to the business.  Having said this it is important to make sure that you express your opinions in a non-aggressive manner and accept other people’s ideas also.

Procrastination is something that we are all guilty of, but procrastination of conflict resolution can be extremely inflammatory and drag out disagreements for much longer than is necessary.  Escalation of conflict occurs when people are too nervous to address potential issues causing grave misunderstandings, leading to a simple issue being blow out of proportion.  It is important to address any miscommunication that you feel has occurred to ensure that it does not escalate into something much larger.  Be the first to ask questions and address the issue and free your mind from worry and a potentially awkward elevator ride!

It is also important to think about the way in which you approach a colleague that you have an issue or miscommunication with.  Some problems have been made much larger simply by inflammatory choice of words.  Try and observe the issue at hand in the most neutrally objective manner possible and then address the problem using non-derogatory, calm language.  Be sure to apologise for your part in the conflict, as this will make the other party more likely to wish to resolve the issue.  Work out an objective in order to ensure that the same problem does not arise again, and if required request specific actions to be put into place to ensure that the problem does not happen again.  This could be as simple as talking to your colleague about approaching each new idea with first a positive comment.

Finally seek mediation if necessary.  This means to include the opinion of an third party not directly related to the issue with no alliance to either opinion.  This can be the office employer or a staff member from another department.   It can also be useful to ask others in the same department what their opinion of the disagreement is, and what they think should be done to correct the issue at hand.  Remember it is much easier to seek mediation then cause a large office disagreement.

Throughout your working career you can bet that there will be workplace conflict of some type. Whether it is a small issue such as failure to clean up after themselves in the office kitchen or    something more significant such as taking credit for another’s work it is vital that you possess the tools and knowledge to deal with any conflict that may arise. Workplaces are filled with many differing personalities and opinions and it is important to recognise that constructive conflict has a positive function whilst negative and destructive conflict needs to be effectively managed to minimise the potentially significant detrimental impacts to both the individuals involved and the organisation.