Managing Conflict in the Workplace
Every workplace will eventually face some type of conflict. In fact, recent research indicates that 85% of workers experience some form of workplace conflict1. However, many business managers are ill-equipped to deal with workplace conflict. Even the best business schools are not effectively preparing future leaders to deal with this pervasive issue. Here are five strategies every business manager should know in dealing with workplace conflict.
Workplace conflict is best addressed head-on; otherwise, the situation will only get worse and could lead to absenteeism and job turnover. Instead, deal with the issues as soon as they arise2. The best business managers know that conflict can result in positive growth within an organization, if it is dealt with appropriately. Workplace conflict can cripple an organization, but it can also be a positive event if embraced.
Not all workplace conflict is preventable, but if you take a proactive approach, many conflicts may be limited or prevented by effective management.
By understanding the tensions that naturally occur in the workplace, you will be able to identify areas of conflict before they get out of control.3 Proactively intervening with decisive action can limit the severity of the conflict.4
A business manager who is attempting to resolve a workplace conflict must listen carefully to both sides of the argument. You should listen to what is actually being said, rather than just listening for an opportunity to react. Both sides should be allowed to speak freely, without being interrupted by the moderator or the others involved. After all involved individuals have finished speaking, you should rephrase what they said to ensure it was understood. Finally, you should ask questions about what was discussed to confirm your understanding of the issues in question3. You will be unable to find an effective resolution if you do not have a strong understanding of the issues.
Negotiating tactics taught by the top MBA programs always include finding common ground. The same is true when management is attempting to resolve workplace conflicts. Shedding light on common ground and emphasizing areas where the conflicting sides agree can bring a faster resolution of the conflict.2 If one side will be viewed as “winning,” showing what is in it for the “losing” side can be an effective way of securing their buy-in. In the heat of the moment, common ground can seem hard to find, but at the end of the day, all sides will likely be able to agree that the long-term success of the company is important. Highlighting that and other shared goals can be an essential aspect of resolving workplace conflicts.
View Conflict as an Opportunity
If handled properly, every workplace conflict can actually be an opportunity for teaching and learning for both management and staff. Disagreement always presents potential for growth and development. Differing positions within a workplace can stimulate innovation and new ways of handling old problems.4 Workplace conflicts do not have to destroy an organization. In fact, the most accomplished business managers use these internal conflicts as an opportunity to make the organization better in the long run.
Resolving workplace conflicts is only one of many skills business managers must master. Many of the other skills needed for a successful career in management are available by earning your MBA online. Taking online courses from an accredited university lets you develop important skills while giving you the flexibility you need. By completing an online graduate degree program, you can equip yourself not just to resolve workplace conflicts, but to work through complex issues that companies face on a daily basis and become a successful business manager.
Workplace conflicts are inevitable, but they don’t have to be detrimental to a business. With the right skills and training, a manager can transform them into learning experiences that help a company grow and thrive.
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