Managing Conflict In The Workplace
Two elephants are standing on a dirt road.

As you progress through your career, odds are, you’ll be involved in a division amongst team members or entire teams at some point, but how do you go about managing conflict in the workplace?

Project tasks, opinions, and processes provide the perfect catalyst for a potential workplace conflict. Collaboration should always be encouraged to help spark new ideas but when those efforts begin to go sour, it’s important to reach a resolution as quickly as possible. The ability to handle conflicts between departments is a trait that managers, supervisors, and HR professionals must have in their arsenal and they need to know when and how to use it. Successfully managing conflict in the workplace can be achieved by first understanding what is causing it, then taking the necessary steps to resolve it.

What Causes Conflict In The Workplace?

There is an unlimited number of reasons for conflict to arise between employees or departments, and identifying the root cause is the essential first step in determining the proper course of action toward a resolution. Some common conflict starters include:

  • Poor communication
  • Personality clashes
  • Conflicting work styles
  • Lack of clear organizational goals
  • Unclear definition of tasks
  • Little support from management
  • Lack of job recognition

Conflict can even result from a disagreement between parties who have positive intent. For example, two managers from different divisions could have strong individual goals for their specific department. They each become fixated on achieving their specific goal over the company policies and procedures and end up losing sight of how everything fits within the overall company goal.

Resolving The Conflict

There are simple steps to take when resolving workplace conflict that will help eliminate the issue and get back towards a common goal. The first step to resolving conflict is to always acknowledge it right away. The longer it is left alone, the worse it may become, dragging more employees in with office gossip and ruining overall morale. Once established, allow those involved to express why they are feeling hurt or angry about the situation. Acknowledging everyone’s feelings will bring about the root of the problem, allowing the resolution process to begin.

Begin problem-solving by defining what exactly the problem is. Get each employees’ side individually first before bringing everyone together to find any potential commonalities. When handling conflict, it’s important to remember that you are not trying to determine who is right and who is wrong but to instead help create a solution that works for everyone. This is best done by first looking at the needs rather than solutions.

Crafting a solution can be done by determining where agreements lie currently, even if they seem minor. It may be they agree on the problem, the following procedure, worst fears, or a small change. The solution should be a way to satisfy the needs. Generate multiple alternatives to work from, determine the actions that will be taken, and ensure everyone outwardly agrees. Any implemented solution should be regularly monitored with follow-up meetings and keep a backup plan handy should the conflict continue to go unresolved.

Recognizing Conflict Early

While it may not be possible to prevent all employee conflicts, working to stay ahead of them is a really good strategy. Keeping open communication with employees will help them feel more comfortable coming to you should an issue arise, and the culture will benefit from feeling appreciated. A great way to receive honest feedback from your employees is by utilizing third-party stay surveys and exit interviews.

HSD Metric’s StayRight solution provides you with comprehensive information and data insights that help you determine where to drive change when you need it most. Be sure to always get honest feedback from employees who choose to leave the company with exit interviews, as they may bring situations to light you were previously unaware of. Our exit interview solution, ExitRight, gives your company insight into turnover benchmarks and analytics, allowing you to effectively improve your employee retention.

For more information about our survey solutions, or to schedule a demo, contact us today.