Workplace conflict costs UK businesses £33bn a year, taking up 20% of leaders time and wasting 370 million working days (Article here). As a leader you need to be responsible for everyone and their relationships in the workplace – and unless you work in a bubble there will be some point conflict arises. Here are 4 tips on dealing with conflict in the office.
1. Don’t ignore it
If you have experienced office conflict you will know that everyday has the ability to change, increase or settle office politics. Whatever you do don’t ignore any situation where conflict is involved, as it has the ability to affect everyone in the office and can disrupt morale, culture and other office relationships.
If there is conflict in lots of members of the team it may be time to arrange some team building activities outside of work so that people can get to know one another in a different environment. This will not only encourage team relationships but also boost morale and company culture
2. Establish the cause
Identify the cause of the conflict by talking to both parties and establish whether the conflict is petty or genuine. The situation may be petty to one person and may be a serious issue to another. Find out what the issue really is and stay neutral. The next thing to do is identify a cause of action and decide how the issue is going to be resolved long term.
As a manager or senior level member of the team it is your responsibility to understand your employees. If there is conflict between employees it is up to you to understand both sides of the argument so you can make decisions about is going on. Sit down with each person one to one to understand their feelings on the situations before you try and tackle the issue head on.
By understanding the whole situation you have all the information you need to help resolve the issues.
4. Don’t let them keep it bottled up.
Getting each side to see the point of view of one another is the most important part of resolving a dispute. Encourage discussion so the problem can be settled and once the argument is resolved work on apologies – from both sides.
If you are struggling to resolve the issues it may be best to agree to disagree – but always agree to be civil about working together in the future.
It should be a requirement to sit down face to face and discuss the issues that employees are having with one another, so make them. Some disagreements will require a mediator so be willing to be a neutral voice in a sit down discussion.
5. Take out the emotion
As a leader it is always best to tackle conflict without emotion. Just because your relationship with one employee may be stronger than another does not mean they are right in this situation. Understanding the situation is the most important part of dealing with conflict and it is important to stay impartial.
Being emotional in situations that include conflict can affect your own relationships with members of the team.
6. Review the situation
After face to face discussions both parties will have had the chance to talk about their disagreements. Sometimes things will be resolved and other times they wont. Review the situation sometime after the conflict – if nothing has changed it may be time to take more drastic action.