Three approaches to mitigating conflicts in the workplace
Conflict is an inevitable part of life, but what should you do when conflict occurs between two or more of your employees? There are many different strategies you might consider, but here are three approaches that research tells us are among the most effective way to resolve conflicts that may arise in the workplace:
Helping Everybody Cool Off
As a leader in the workplace, your role in conflicts between coworkers is similar to that of a referee. You don’t take one person or group’s side when you first notice a conflict arising; instead, your job is to step in and direct your employees to go cool off on their own instead of taking the argument to a whole new level of frustration and anger.
When you notice sparks of conflict among your team, take action before it festers into an all-out shouting match. While it’s important to eventually address all parties’ concerns on the matter, the first step should always be returning your employees’ to a rational, cool state of mind before engaging with each other on the issue of contention.
Mediating Squabbles Face-to-Face
Once your employees have cooled down and are ready to discuss the issue in a reasonable tone, then your role transitions from referee to mediator. Even though we’re all adults, many of us are still terrible with addressing and dealing with interpersonal or work-related conflicts in objective ways.
This is where you come in: bringing the conflicting parties together for a rational discussion (no raised voices, passive-aggressiveness or personal attacks allowed under your watch!). Face-to-face communication is the best avenue for resolving conflicts in the workplace because misunderstandings and greater frustration are more likely to occur over electronic means of communication.
Implementing New Conflict Resolution Measures
Once you resolve the issue, your final step is preventing similar issues from coming up in the future. Workplace conflicts are damaging for employee morale, so it’s crucial that you develop new strategies for conflict resolution based on your current experiences. This might involve scheduling more frequent check-in meetings with your employees, setting higher standards for professional conduct in your office, privately addressing an ongoing issue with one or multiple employees, contacting your HR department, etc.
Conflict shouldn’t be viewed as 100% negative because productive outcomes are achievable with conflicting ideas, opinions and personalities. However, conflict that borders on irrationality and negatively impacts your workplace climate should be addressed immediately and effectively to prevent more serious interpersonal problems from developing under your leadership.