Conflict and confrontation are an inevitable part of everyone’s daily lives at home and at the workplace. No matter how hard you try to avoid conflict, you still won’t be able to escape it. Especially in the workplace. When a conflict arises, putting your head in the sand and hoping it will pass won’t make your life easier. Running from the problem is not the best methodology at such circumstances; the conflict won’t resolve itself and it might escalate if not solved in a healthy, productive fashion.
In order to develop effective conflict resolution skills and achieve healthy results, you must first understand what conflict is. In addition, you should learn about the factors that lead to it in the workplace and understand the benefits of conflict resolution. According to Cambridge Dictionary, a conflict is an “ active disagreement between people with opposing opinions or principles.” So, anything and everything can create conflict, and when it comes to the workplace, you will find an endless list of these things starting from opposing positions, competitive tensions, power struggles, ego, pride, jealousy, performance discrepancies, compensation issues, sentimental surges, just someone having a bad day, etc.
All in all, poor communication and the inability to control one’s emotions spark most conflicts. Think of all the times when miscommunication, poor information or emotional superiority leads to conflict!
Yet, you cannot avoid the aforementioned factors and that leaves us with one question:
How to effectively deal with conflict when it arises in the work?
Define Acceptable Behavior
Having a clear definition of what is acceptable and what is not will save you from the hassle of assumptions and bring you a step closer to avoiding conflicts. You must foster effective communication by having a well-articulated chain of command and clearly defined job descriptions. This will set what you expect of each individual.
Hit Conflict Head-on
It is true that one cannot totally avoid conflicts, but still can prevent them. Whenever possible, look for areas of potential conflict and intervene proactively to prevent it from arising. If that doesn’t work, try minimizing the conflict’s severity by dealing with it promptly.
Understand the WIIFM Factor
By understanding the other professionals WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) position, you will help those around you achieve their objectives and thus avoid conflict. It is imperative to take others’ motivations into account before contributing to solving the problem. Approaching conflict from such perspective will leave few obstacles standing in your way of resolving it.
Choose Your Battles
Knowing when and what to fight for at the right time will save you time, energy and conflict for the sake of conflict. However, that doesn’t mean that you disregard issues important enough to create conflict. When there is enough at stake, you must take the required measures to open lines of communication and close existing gaps.
See Opportunity in Conflict
Within every conflict lies a great opportunity for learning/ teaching. Although conflicts stand as hindrances to growth and development, they are not destructive if you handle them properly. In fact, you must leverage all conflicts to stimulate innovation and enhance team building and leadership development actions.
In today’s business world, dealing with conflict and confrontation is one of the most important skills you can acquire. Conflict is a normal part of any social and organizational setting. And the way you handle it affects that whole set. Your choice of conflict management strategy will depend primarily on your desire to actually resolve the conflict and meet your goals and other people’s goals. Always aim for a win-win model to provide the best chance for improved relationships and to build a healthier and safer work environment.
Case study 1:
Companies such as Georgia Pacific, General Electric, Swiss Re, E. I. duPont and Coca-Cola Enterprises have had conflict management programs for years. They have found that such programs have saved them millions of dollars. At the International Bar Association meeting in Vancouver in October 2010, David Burt of E.I. duPont’s legal team reported that personal injury cases that are mediated rather than litigated have resulted in a savings of $76,000 per case; employment mediations save an average of $61,000 per case; and business-to-business mediations save a whopping $350,000 per case!
Source: Accord, LLC
Conflict Management Services
Case Study 2:
In a departmental team of 12 team members, the relationship was so damaged that they only spoke to each other through third parties. The group was split into two warring factions and there was a perceived favoritism with respect to approval of leave, training, and allowances. The company had to bring in a conflict-resolving agency to help address and remedy the situation with the goal of creating a long-term, sustainable solution that was accepted by everyone involved in the workplace conflict. The members had several conferences and brought their problems out in the open until they all agreed on the workplace conflict action plan, recognized their responsibilities and decided to get their power back.