Managing Conflict in the Workplace: Three Strategies

Every workplace faces conflict. Pure and simple, it’s the inevitable outcome of individuals working together. No one views the world the same way, and sometimes workers butt heads. Most commonly, conflicts are due to a lack of communication or letting one’s emotions take over. As a leader, you’ll need to manage conflict effectively to maintain a productive workplace where everyone feels comfortable and safe sharing their ideas.

Workplace conflict—what you can do

The best leaders are experts at handling conflict. Here are three of the best strategies you can use:

  • Set the ground rules. Employees must understand what constitutes acceptable behavior in the workplace. This can help you avoid conflict before it rears its ugly head. If you don’t have one already, you’ll want to create an employee handbook that includes information about: dress code, the tardiness policy, the harassment policy, workplace diversity, ethical business practices, etc.Aside from a list of rules, great managers also set a precedent for good behavior by how they deal with their subordinates. You’ll want to make it clear from the start that you’re a compassionate, tolerant boss, but that breaking company rules, throwing temper tantrums or otherwise disrupting office peace will not be tolerated.
  • Meet regularly with your staff. On a regular basis, hold one-on-one meetings with your workers. Ask them how everything is going. This is a great way to uncover potential conflicts and address them before they are blown out of proportion. Of course, you must be prepared that employees may “cry wolf.” However, if an employee who rarely complains makes note of a concern, or multiple employees note the same concern, you’ll know it’s something you need to take action to resolve. Maintain an open door policy in case issues come up in between one-on-one meetings.
  • Choose your battles wisely. When you attempt to resolve a conflict, you must understand that the staff involved may feel they’ve had their hands slapped. It’s important to consider how much the conflict affects your company’s overall goals and what the fallout of your resolution could be. For many issues, if they’re important enough to create conflict in the first place, they’re probably important enough to resolve. However, employees may also create conflict just for the sake of conflict. Pay close attention so you can tell the difference between the two.

View conflict not as a setback, but as an opportunity

Workplace conflict happens even to the best leaders. But conflict is not a bad thing, and you should embrace it as a learning opportunity. In the end, your business will be stronger for it. Remember that with practice you’ll be able to handle workplace conflicts constructively and with grace.

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