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Leadership Management Professional Development

Managing Conflict in the Workplace

Managing conflict in the workplace comes with it’s challenges. Be it with a boss or a co-worker, workplace conflict can be expensive and detrimental to organisational culture. Follow on for our 6 tips to managing conflict in the workplace.

A recent survey from CPP showed that 25 per cent of employees had been absent from work to avoid a form of conflict. The same report also showed that nearly 10 per cent of employees stated that workplace conflict had led to project failure. Over 30 per cent said that conflict resulted in someone leaving the business, either through being fired or quitting. These situations translate into real financial losses for businesses of all sizes (Entrepreneur 2010).

Workplace conflict comes in a variety of forms but there are two common types that businesses report to us on a regular basis. These being, conflicts with a boss or between co-workers.

Regardless of the situation, there are two basic questions to be answered.

How important is the matter that is causing the conflict? And, how important is this relationship?

Your answers will determine the best course of action.  Here are a couple of common scenarios.

Conflict with a Boss

Lets face it, everyone has – at one time or another – had conflict with a boss. “All he does is sit in his office all day and micro-manage me”. “She doesn’t recognise or appreciate me”. “I don’t understand what is expected of me and I never seem to do anything right”.  Sound familiar?

Naturally, the relationship you hold with your boss is important to assist in achieving workplace objectives and for career development. Therefore, you should spend the time required to resolve the conflict. The question you need to ask yourself is: “What’s my role in the conflict and what can I do to improve the situation”?

While it’s easy to fall into the blame game, you will feel better channelling your energy towards a solution. This will likely mean a different approach to the one you are currently taking. Try arranging a meeting so you can understand your boss’s goals and objectives, express your concerns, and explore ways to work better together. Gaining insight into your boss’ logic and viewpoint may trigger ideas about new methods for handling the situation.

This type of approach is a positive step and will send the message to your boss that you are interested and willing to resolve the tension that exists.

Conflict with a Colleague

Despite the rapidly increasing automation and digitalisation of our work day, we inevitably still rely on other people to assist us in getting things done. The problem is, we don’t all operate in the same ways. This makes conflict inevitable.

One solution for resolving conflict with a colleague is to identify someone who has a productive working relationship with the person who you have conflict with.

Make it clear to this person that your goal is to resolve the conflict and improve the working relationship. At that point, you can tap into his or her knowledge of the other person for tips in getting along. Try out the advice and see how they respond. This may also trigger other ideas to help you sooth the tension.

If you are still confused about how to solve your conflict issue, below is a six step process that may assist you to prepare and work towards managing conflict in the workplace. This six step conflict resolution model is part of the Future Institute of Australia Conflict Management workshop, aimed at helping teams manage and prevent conflict in the workplace.

The Six Steps to Managing Conflict in the Workplace

Step 1 – Prepare yourself: 

Remain calm, remember the basics of a few deep breaths, taking away the emotion and using emotional intelligence skills to respond.  Take some time to consider your approach to respond, never react. Be prepared to listen and try to understand where the other person is coming from.

Step 2 – Prepare your approach:

Allow time to consider the best place to approach the other person, find somewhere private and comfortable. Consider your needs and objectives as well as the needs of the other person.  Keep it professional, use positive language but be prepared for accusations or attacks. You may like to write your response down and practise it before the meeting.

Step 3 – Approach / Raise the issue:

Apologise for your part in the conflict, highlight the consequences of the problem and also what you would like to achieve to reach a win-win.  Allow the other party to raise their views and empathise with them.

Step 4 – Discuss options and decide:

Try to find common ground, agree on viewpoint differences, stay calm when its your turn to speak.  Use problem solving techniques such as fishbone or mind mapping. Look for and agree on a win-win solution for both parties.

Step 5 – Plan and implement actions:

From the agreed solution, jointly create an action plan of what, who, how and why. Set time frames for implementation, agree on a follow up meeting and review steps.

Step 6 – Evaluate:

Set time aside to review the progress of your solution.  Be prepared to modify and improve what you have in place.  Most importantly celebrate if it works.  If it doesn’t work, go back to the beginning, perhaps there is something that you have missed in the six step model.

Additional Resource for Managing Conflict in the Workplace

To assist you further, we have also included a free tool (The AID Feedback Model) that will assist you in your approach better approach conflict in your workplace. Download it here.

About Us

Future Institute of Australia are leaders of quality leadership development training. We provide meaningful, dynamic, and ahead of the curve nationally recognised training, coaching, and diagnostic tools with a personalised and tailor made approach at the centre of everything we do. Through our understanding of the complexities of different organisations, their cultures, and critical training needs, we improve performance and change behaviour to develop the leaders of the future and contribute to the innovation of corporate, government, and community organisations across Australia.

Learn more about our conflict management workshop here or you can contact us for further information.