Communication tactics to dissolve conflict in the workplace

How to Manage Conflict and Disagreements with Colleagues

Conflict between colleagues in the workplace is destructive – and expensive. A study by CPP, Inc. found that workplace conflict cost U.S. organizations more than $350 billion in 2008, with employees spending an average of more than two hours each week dealing with conflict.

These six communication tactics will help you manage conflict between colleagues, to build a more harmonious and collaborative workplace.

1. Tackle Issues of Conflict Immediately

When you avoid addressing conflict, you enable that conflict to grow. It’s essential to tackle issues of workplace conflict immediately and openly. Gather information about the conflict, seeking fact and opinion through both open-ended and close-ended questions.

2. Don’t Apportion Blame – Discover Root Causes

Often, conflict is ignited because of a mistake made. To err is human. By seeking to apportion blame, you may miss the root cause of the conflict. This may be poor information flow, poor process, or a lack of collaboration between colleagues. Playing the blame game makes people defensive, and this will stop them revealing the root cause of conflict that needs to be resolved.

3. Set Clear Expectations

Manage expectations within the workplace and encourage effective communication. When managing conflict and encouraging people to speak openly, ensure that people are given the opportunity to express their feelings without interruption.

When a resolution to workplace conflict has been developed, ensure that colleagues understand what is expected of them – and the support they can expect from you as their manager. Often, confusion is at the heart of conflict – and confusion is caused by poor communication.

4. Address Conflict in Person

Tackling conflict by modern communication methods such as email and text risks building resentment, negative feelings and misinterpretation. Addressing conflict in person and face-to-face shows that you take the issue seriously and respect those involved. It gives you the opportunity to listen, explain and assess what you are told.

5. Listen

Ensure that you listen to what is being said, and understand the views and opinions of others. People will have different opinions. Managing these effectively enables you to turn conflict into innovation.

6. Recognize People’s Differences

In the multigenerational and cross-cultural workplace, different views and behaviors can cause conflict between colleagues. Culture and personality clashes exist in every workplace. The same event can be interpreted differently by different people.

Be respectful of these differences, and understand how people prefer to communicate. This will help establish relationships that will enable difficult conversations to take place when workplace conflict exists.

Embrace Conflict

Don’t pretend that conflict doesn’t happen in your organization. Personal differences – whether cultural, generational, or because of personality – exist. The six tactics outlined above will help you and your people embrace conflict, ensuring that colleagues co-exist in greater harmony – and that when conflict is present, it is employed positively and innovatively.

Contact us today to discover how we could help your leaders, managers and employees improve their conflict management skills, and how this could feed through to your organization’s performance.


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