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Conflict at work can be challenging for many businesses, and it’s a common issue that organizations must address.
While not all conflict is necessarily problematic, some disagreements and diverse perspectives can lead to innovation and better decision-making.
However, unresolved or poorly managed conflicts can have negative consequences. Here are some reasons why conflict at work can be a concern for businesses:
Why Conflict At Work Is Bad
Reduced Productivity: Unresolved conflicts can create tension and disrupt workflow, decreasing productivity and efficiency. Team members may become distracted by interpersonal issues, and collaboration may suffer.
For instance, if two employees avoid each other and refuse to communicate, this conduct will inadvertently impact how work gets done.
Increased Turnover: Prolonged or severe conflicts can lead to employee dissatisfaction and turnover.
Employees who feel their workplace is hostile or unmanageable due to ongoing conflicts often seek employment elsewhere.
For instance, there typically comes a point when an employee has had enough and will begin looking for another job.
Employee Morale Is Damaged: No one enjoys working in a negative environment, and morale is usually the first thing to get impacted.
Frequent conflicts can erode team morale and create a negative work environment.
Employees may feel stressed, anxious, or demotivated when constantly dealing with conflict at work.
Relationships Are Damaged: Employee teams require strong relationships to be effective.
Conflicts can damage relationships between team members, making it difficult for them to collaborate effectively.
Trust may be eroded, and communication can break down.
Creates A Drain On Valuable Resources: When conflict arises, work slows. When there needs to be intervention, time will be spent trying to resolve the situation.
Addressing conflicts and their consequences can consume valuable time and resources.
Managers and HR departments may need to invest time in mediation, conflict resolution, and employee counseling.
Creates Barriers to Innovation and Creativity: We know that there is a constructive conflict that fosters diversity of thought.
However, a lack of conflict management can hinder creative thinking and innovative problem-solving.
When team members cannot express diverse viewpoints freely, it can stifle innovation.
Damage To Business Reputation: Conflict can be a slippery slope. And, if not resolved, it can seep outside of the business.
Workplace conflicts, especially if they become public or involve harassment or discrimination, can harm a company’s reputation.
This can affect an organization’s ability to retain and attract valuable employees.
Customer Satisfaction Impact: Unfortunately, the customer often feels the conflict of a business.
Key Objectives Go To Back Burner: We are all busy. There is much to be done to achieve business objectives.
However, when we need to address persistent conflicts, it takes our time and focus away from what we are trying to achieve with our core business objectives.
How To Eliminate Conflict At Work
Eliminating conflict at work is not always possible, as differences in opinions, personalities, and objectives are natural in any workplace.
However, you can take several proactive steps to minimize and manage workplace conflicts effectively. Here are some strategies to consider:
Foster Effective Communication: Develop an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their frustrations and concerns.
Encourage open and honest communication among team members and encourage active listening while trying to understand coworkers’ perspectives.
For instance, conduct town hall meetings, focus group sessions, and one-on-one supervisor and employee meetings to learn how to improve the worker experience.
Establish clear guidelines for tasks, projects, and deadlines to reduce misunderstandings.
For instance, ensure employees know what is expected of them and when the project due dates are.
Seek Conflict Resolution Training: Conflict resolution can be a learned skill. Invest in conflict resolution training for yourself and your team to equip everyone with the skills to address conflicts quickly and constructively.
Develop a Positive Work Place: Employees like to work in a positive and healthy environment.
Create a workplace culture that values respect, collaboration, and inclusivity. Recognize and reward teamwork and positive contributions.
Requestion Mediation: Some conflicts require an objective third party to mediate. Designate a mediator or HR representative to help resolve conflicts impartially.
Provide resources such as conflict resolution tools and processes to resolve issues.
Develop Emotional Intelligence: We all come from different backgrounds, which gives us varying levels of empathy towards others.
Promote empathy among team members to help them understand each other’s feelings and perspectives.
Develop emotional intelligence within the organization to improve self-awareness and interpersonal relationships.
Encourage Continuous Feedback: Managers must understand the issues that may lead to conflict.
Encourage regular feedback sessions between team members and managers to address issues early.
Provide constructive feedback, focusing on behaviors and actions rather than personalities.
Write Policies: Develop and communicate clear conflict-resolution policies and procedures for employees when issues arise.
For instance, through a written policy, let employees know that conflict will be addressed by meeting with involved parties to resolve differences.
Encourage Team Building Activities: Organize team-building activities to build trust and improve relationships among team members.
For instance, schedule team-building events focusing on group activities to help employees get to know each other and learn respect and care for each other.
Show Others The Way: Model the behavior you want to see in your team by handling conflicts professionally and respectfully.
Employees watch their managers. Use conflict opportunities to demonstrate constructive ways of resolving conflict.
Conflict Prevention: Proactively identify potential sources of conflict and take steps to mitigate them before they escalate.
For instance, if there is regular conflict over resources, work to identify ways to provide the necessary resources for all workers.
Learn As You Go: We all learn by doing. Document conflicts and resolutions to identify recurring issues and prevent them from happening in the future.
For instance, if two employees are engaged in conflict over resource allocation, document the issue and how the business chose to reallocate resources to resolve the conflict.
Find Help: Sometimes conflicts become so big that it is necessary to get professional help. Consider bringing in an external mediator or consultant to provide an unbiased perspective and guidance in severe or persistent conflicts.
Not All Conflict Is Bad
Remember that some level of conflict can be healthy, leading to innovative solutions and better decision-making when managed effectively.
The goal is not necessarily to eliminate all conflict but to ensure that conflicts are addressed constructively and respectfully, promoting a positive and productive work environment.
Employees should be clear about what is and isn’t tolerated within the business and the process for resolving conflict. Managers who are trained, attentive, and caring can be the liaisons for a conflict-free workplace!