As long as people are in the workplace, conflict will be present. Why? We are born as unique individuals with a will and ability to make choices about everything! We come into this world with feelings, emotions and desires that are molded by our culture and the environment we grow-up in. Our responses and ideal way of doing something is mostly determined by what we are routinely accustomed to, whether positive or negative. Conflict occurs when people come together for whatever reason and don’t see or respond to situations the same. So, the question is not if conflict occurs, but how should it be handled when it does?
What causes workplace conflict?
- Unresolved issues or concerns
- Dealing with difficult people or those that don’t see things the same way
When and where does it occur?
Conflict occurs when two or more competing responses or courses of action to a single event are involved. It exists in our work place, our home life and social life.
However, conflict does not necessarily imply hostility although it can become part of the situation. If not managed, conflict may have negative impacts on the work environment in the following areas:
- Decreased productivity
- Lack of trust and secrecy
- Development of clicks
- Diminished information flow and decision making paralysis
- Morale problems
As leaders, one must recognize conflict and quickly determine how to counteract its negative forces and make sure the diagnosis of the event are accurate. Here a few misconceptions regarding conflict:
- If left alone conflict will take care of itself – No. If left alone conflict can destroy a team or a person.
- Confronting conflict is always an unpleasant experience – No. It doesn’t have to be. Bringing to light the area of conflict is a great opportunity to resolve it quickly and for the team to find very creative solutions to resolving issues.
- The presence of conflict in an organization is a sign of poor management – No. Where there are two or more people together, there will be some type of conflict eventually.
- Conflict is always negative and destructive – No. The response to the conflict will determine if the outcome is positive or negative.
The two most common types of conflict:
- Internal conflict – conflict within oneself.
- Interpersonal conflict – conflict between people and/or groups.
Addressing and resolving conflict between two or more individuals will always involve a neutral third party. After all, if the issue could have been resolved between the parties involved, the conflict would not have escalated to the intervention level. The most common strategies used to address conflict are negotiation, mediation and arbitration. However, other methods and practices can be used to positively reduce or alleviate conflict. Here are a few suggestions:
- Have an effective communication process in place
- Meet the basic needs of your team members
- Value each team member for their contribution
Are conflicts resolved at the lowest level in your organization? What strategies are in place to handle workplace conflict? Have the management team received training in conflict resolution within the last 2-years?
If you need help in these areas, contact us to request a free training needs assessment.