No matter the industry, all workplaces experience tensions between staff at times, especially when communication is needed between a high-level executive and their corporate assistant. While avoiding all tension is impossible, effectively handling conflict when it does arise is a key to long-term success in a company. Here are some of the important ways to handle conflict, and to make sure that everyone learns from the process.
Lay the ground rules for fair conflict
One of the ways that companies set themselves up for failure is by pretending that everyone will agree on long-term. However, if you create a process for workplace conflict, you are much more likely to avoid having staff members continuously squabbling because they don’t know to escalate an issue.
When conflict is based upon workplace decisions, there should always be a process that considers:
- Is there a mediator with whom the employees can speak?
- Should they each address their supervisor separately to resolve the conflict?
By creating a process, tensions won’t be allowed to fester and, with the authority of a long-standing policy, the conflicted employees are more likely to accept the eventual outcome.
Handle conflict with trusted parties present
When two parties cannot resolve a conflict quickly and clearly with each other, it can help to bring in another person to mediate. However, the new person should be a trusted, unbiased person that both people in the conflict trust.
Complaining to others in the organisation about the conflict is one of the worst things possible; rallying more and more people to your side makes the conflict last longer and take on a tone of us-versus-them – even if the original goal was to work together. However, when one trusted mediator is used, and the conflict is handled quietly, the relationship and collegiality are much more likely to be preserved.
Listen first and take time to respond
No matter what your position is in the organisation, the conflict will be resolved more swiftly if you listen carefully and hold your judgement or questions until you’ve really had a chance to think.
Almost all of us benefit when we ask ourselves, “Where is my resistance to this person’s ideas coming from?”
More often than not, an emotional reason, rather than a rational one, motivates negative reactions. By listening and responding slowly, we give our rational brains more time to consider a solution that could affirm a colleague while still serving everyone’s best interests.