Conflict Resolution Strategies to use in the Workplace

Australians spend a lot of time at work.

In Western Australia alone, the average full-time worker devotes 41.1 hours a week to work. Combine that with a workplace of different personalities, opinions and managing styles – conflict is inevitable.

Without effective conflict resolution strategies, poorly managed workplace disagreements can be detrimental to your employees and your business. Unfortunately, many business leaders are not equipped with the experience or skills necessary to deal with conflict.

However, the worst thing you can do as business owner is avoid dealing with friction. Workplace wars can result in high employee turnover, absenteeism and demotivated employees. To minimise the effects on your team, conflict must be addressed.

Conflict in the Workplace

According to research, 30% of a typical manager’s time is spent dealing with workplace disputes.

The biggest culprits of workplace conflict are due to breached agreements, clashes in personality and managing styles, harassment, conflicting values and lack of information or misunderstanding.

Organisational problems, mental illnesses, lack of resources and skills and inefficient work/life balance can also cause conflict.

When managed efficiently, conflict resolution is highly beneficial to business owners and staff. Some of these benefits include:

  • Relationship building: Constructive change is vital to the success of small businesses. When conflict is handled rather than ignored, the stage is set for positive change to occur which leads to stronger team relationships.
  • Creative problem-solving: Conflict resolutions encourages new insights. Team members are able to consider different perspectives and adopt new ways to handle situations.
  • Goal achievement: Resolved workplace conflicts facilitate goal achievement. As you and your team work through conflicts, progress is made towards achieving personal and business goals, which offers a greater sense of success for staff.
  • Enhances commitment: Effective conflict resolution strategies get staff thinking in terms of “us” verses “me”, which increases commitment to the resolution process.

If you’re looking to maintain a positive work environment, consider these conflict resolution strategies.

Offer Early Intervention

The earlier you can intervene, the better. Pay attention to the culture of your workplace to see whether conflict is present. Conflict builds up over time. So, look for key indicators, such as low work productivity, poor staff retention, absenteeism, low morale and disengagement within your team.

Feedback processes may need to be improved to detect and minimise conflict. By intervening early, you’re more likely to prevent the situation from escalating, an essential component of conflict resolution.

Recognise Different Fairness Perceptions

During conflict, both parties will be adamant they’re right and the other side is wrong and what constitutes a fair resolution may differ based on those varying perceptions.

That’s why an unbiased third party could be a viable solution.

Considering using a mediator or an expert to offer their view on the ‘facts’. By focusing on the facts, you shift away from personal perceptions of fairness and look at the bigger picture.

Look for Deeper Issues

Are you digging beneath the surface? Many conflicts can be resolved by identifying the core issue. For example, disputes about money and employee wages often involve deeper causes of conflict, such as feeling disrespected, unappreciated or overlooked at work.

Listen closely to grievances and find creative ways to address them. Maybe you can offer a better work/life schedule if pay can’t be increased, or other incentives which may minimise staff financial pressures.

This conflict resolution strategy is important for strengthening relationships, helping staff feel valued and supported in their roles and thereby minimising any future conflict.

Build a Stronger Culture

Work cultures that nurture frequent, healthy feedback, boldness and transparency, are naturally stronger. Encourage these essentials through leading by example. Open door policies may also make it easier for staff to approach management before conflict occurs.

If all staff see that discriminatory behaviour isn’t acceptable and is disciplined, they’re less likely to do it.

Open door policies work best when management is approachable and employees are taken seriously. They also ensure confrontations are reported.

Strong work cultures are far more inclined to receive feedback with an open mind and appreciation, using it as an opportunity for growth. Conflict training can be helpful in building stronger work cultures and preventing problematic behaviour too.

Get Comfortable with Uncomfortable Conversations

As a business owner or manager, it’s vital you speak to staff – face-to-face – for uncomfortable conversations. Relying on email means there’s a lack of real-time awareness of the facts, which is necessary for effective conflict resolution. These situations require your undivided attention to be handled efficiently.

Prevention Beats Cure

Conflict may be a sign that workplaces haven’t created the necessary safeguards to reduce tension.

Putting the correct processes in place is key to ensuring all staff are treated respectfully. These procedures should also include your company’s best practices for managing workplace conflict.

Knowing how to prevent conflicts, rather than curing them when they arise, means business owners should determine core issues.

We recommend providing training to staff and management on how to communicate constructively and investing time in learning professional skills to prevent conflict from occurring in the future.

Businesses that implement the right conflict resolution strategies will increase workplace productivity, retain top performers and manage potential risks. For more information about how conflict training can benefit your business, speak to us today.

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