The first thing to understand is that conflict in the workplace is a reality. We can either live with it, ignore it or deal with it. We are often faced with conflict from early on in our careers but managing conflict is a key skill for effective management and can make the difference between a successful or unsuccessful manager. How a manager chooses to handle conflict defines their capability as a leader. A true leader recognises, understands and manages conflict. Avoiding it is not an option as it will not go away; instead it will only escalate.
To recognise and manage conflict, we need to understand:
1. Its causes
2. Its dangers
3. How to deal with it
4. Benefits of dealing with it
The causes can be as varied as the types of people working in an organisation. The causes range from competition, manipulative individuals, bruised egos, jealousy, blame games, unfair handling by superiors, to simply miscommunication and misunderstandings.
The dangers are infighting among staff, a loss of morale and loyalty to the employer, a destructive work atmosphere, anger and gossip among staff, barriers between individuals and teams, power struggle, non-co-operation, and worst of all, a high attrition rate, particularly of efficient and effective staff.
Ways of managing conflict can differ according to the nature of the conflict as well as the personality types involved. These are some general tips that can be useful in most cases.
- First of all, if you are a manager dealing with conflict you should never be seen as subjective or having favourites. You must be seen as fair and consistent.
- Always have a clearly defined code of conduct with an understanding that breaking this will not be tolerated.
- Conflict should always be recognised, understood and dealt with at the earliest. It will not resolve by itself.
- The benefits to each individual of co-operation and a conflict-free workplace with a healthy team spirit must be made absolutely clear. Effective communication and rapport building is the key.
- As a manager you should know how to separate the person from the problem. In other words, deal with the behaviour and the situation without attacking the identity of the individual. This way it doesn’t become personal and there is a better chance of the employee listening with an open mind.
- Invest in staff-development training in team management, emotional intelligence, communication skills including non-verbal, mediation and counselling skills, cultural awareness in global organisations, and leadership skills
- Finally, anyone facing conflict should choose their battles. Know when to come down firmly and when to hold back so that you are not perceived as unfair and dictatorial.
The benefits of managing conflict effectively are just as numerous: high staff morale, high productivity resulting in financial gain, healthy work environment, effective team work saving time and stress, and loyalty to the employer resulting in staff retention to mention just a few. Effective and transformational leaders can even cherish the challenge of resolving conflict and take credit for a creative, productive workplace.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2013