No matter how tightly knit a team is or how collegial the workplace, conflict on the job is inevitable. Every team is made of people, and people differ in their views, attitudes, and approaches to problems. When differences clash, conflict arises.
At some point in his or her career, every manager faces conflict. Managers can’t eliminate conflict, but they can manage it constructively. When managed well, conflict creates an opportunity to solve problems and build relationships. Differing approaches to a problem may be integrated, and team members can learn to understand and communicate with one another more effectively.
Consider the following strategies for managing conflict in the workplace:
- Confront the conflict. Avoiding or ignoring conflicts gives them free space to grow unchecked, turning what might have been a momentary molehill into a productivity-killing mountain. If you sense a conflict brewing, don’t wait. Bring the problem into the open and address it before it takes over the entire work day.
- Identify the real issue. Although confronting a conflict brings its existence into the forefront, merely identifying that an issue exists doesn’t always reveal its content. Take the time to find out what’s really wrong, fix it, and find a way to prevent it from arising in the future.
- Hear all sides. Conflict can’t exist without at least two sides. If you limit yourself to hearing only one of them, you’re missing at least half the story. Make sure all parties involved have the chance to explain their positions, and encourage them to actively listen to one another in order to seek common ground.
- Cash the reality check. Some conflicts are based on personal issues that don’t belong in a work environment. If members of your team are embroiled in a personal conflict, it may be appropriate to remind them to set their personal issues aside and focus on the professional task ahead of them.
- Remember the rest of the team. The people directly involved in the conflict aren’t the only ones who may be affected by it. Communicate and work with the rest of the team as necessary when a conflict overflows its boundaries.