Being a successful manager requires having a solid set of interpersonal skills. If you are an experienced manager, you know that the ability to effectively manage conflict in the workplace is one of the most important management skills you can have. Those who are new to management are often surprised that conflict management takes up so much of their time and is not always easy.
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable. However, conflict is not always a negative. If effectively managed, conflict shouldn’t interfere with productivity or damage employee morale.
Importance of Effective Conflict Resolution Skills
Sometimes, you can purposefully ignore the conflict and let people resolve it themselves. Leaving it to your employees to sort it out can help them learn to collaborate. It shows that you expect the best from them, and conflict resolution is one of the skills needed for their own professional growth.
On the other hand, your job as a manager is to know when you need to step in and be willing to do so when necessary to resolve the issues. If you are avoiding it because it is uncomfortable, you need to improve your conflict resolution skills. It’s your job. As a manager, your job is not to lecture people about why you are right and they are wrong. This approach often fails to resolve anything and can make things even worse.
Proven Conflict Resolution Strategies
Here are some of the best strategies to keep conflict from escalating and adversely affecting your business:
Address issues privately
Conflict resolution should be done in private. People are much more likely to express their true thoughts. To be sure, any reprimanding or criticizing of people must be done in private. When you need to provide criticism, make sure you recognize any good work that was done before you give negative feedback. You then need to offer guidance to fix any specific problem.
Handle the issue promptly and in a neutral location
Frequently, just moving one or more of the feuding parties to another location can calm things down. It can help the person put the conflict in proper perspective.
Preferably, take the individuals to a neutral location. A neutral location may be a conference room or a location outside of the office. Moving to another location will give people a few moments to settle down, and a neutral location can foster a constructive conversation in a more comfortable setting.
Use active listening techniques
Encourage people to talk about the issue. That means you must keep your own emotions in check and control the impulse to lay blame and make accusations. You need to hear all viewpoints first. Start by explaining that everyone is trying to do what they think is best, and the problem is a challenging one. Let each person have a chance to express their thoughts without being judged. Keep the focus on the problem, not on individuals.
As you listen, consider whether the conflict is an indicator of deeper problems within the team or the project dynamics. Maybe the root of the conflict is personality driven, or perhaps the issue is exterior to the group. In any event, as the manager, your job is to find a way to get the employees to work together to find a resolution. Instead of telling them what to do, you will want to guide them to the resolution you see.
Use “I” when addressing issues
When talking about the effect of a conflict or another person’s conduct, you are more effective if you talk about the effect of the conduct on you. For example, avoid saying things like, “You are terrible”. Instead, you should say, “When you said x, it made me feel disrespected.” Using the “I” approach makes it easier for people to discuss problem areas without exacerbating the conflict.
Realize when you need assistance to resolve the conflict
In some cases, you may have to ask for help in resolving the conflict. You may need help from an HR expert, a senior executive or a professionally trained mediator. Getting the help you need is better than handling it on your own and potentially making things worse.
Follow up with the parties involved
Do not assume that the matter is resolved. Check back with people as often as needed to make sure the matter is not still smoldering beneath the surface and any outstanding issues are being properly addressed.
Get Professional Conflict Management Training
Effective conflict resolution strategies can be learned. Make sure your managers get the best training out there. One of the best training programs is the Management Training Program offered by Smart HR. Contact the HR Consultants at Smart HR for more information.