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Build strategies to get workplace conflicts under control

Don’t let workplace conflicts cost your business money!

It’s not uncommon for tempers in the office to fray. People are spending a lot of time together, there can be periods of increased stress, and it can be hard to mesh different skill sets and different ways of working together.

But a conflict in the office doesn’t just create a negative environment, it can have a real impact on your bottom line. AccessEAP has released data showing that close to 15% of employees seeking support say they have faced workplace conflict. Even more telling, the report says that conflicts with managers and colleagues are two of the top 10 issues facing workers.

Experiencing conflict or bullying at work can lead to workplace absenteeism which is now a serious issue facing businesses - and an expensive one. Resolving office conflict is essential to maintain both morale and productivity. So, how do you do it? We look at 4 strategies for dealing with conflict in the workplace.

If your company has a human resources (HR) team, it’s important to engage them before stepping in to try and resolve a conflict yourself. If you don’t have a formal HR process, or people involved don’t want to escalate the incident to HR, you can work to find a resolution yourself.

Whether you’re directly involved in the conflict, or working to resolve it, there are some essential points you can follow as you start to find a resolution.

1. Agree that everyone will act in good faith

It’s essential to agree that everyone involved wants to find a resolution. It’s important to bring this up in a non-threatening way. Perhaps there is a future goal you can highlight, to remind everyone that you’re working towards something bigger. Try saying something like: “Once we’re all back on the same page, we’ll be closer to finishing this project, which is something we all want to see happen”.

2. Address the emotions involved

In the majority of offices, it’s unusual to see a heated or emotional response playing out. But, If people are engaged in open conflict, emotions are running high. Take the time to acknowledge this. Ask whether everyone is able to address the issue at the moment, or whether another time should be scheduled, where everyone can have the conversation with a cool head.

3. Keep an open mind

Key to resolving any conflict is understanding what each person wants. The tricky thing is that this could be different to what they say they want. While you can’t force someone to make a difficult revelation, you can work to create an environment where they feel supported to do so. A note here, if you’re not involved directly, it can be tempting to hear out each party individually, letting them air their grievances privately. Try to avoid this as it can have the opposite effect and make people feel that you’re siding against them. It’s better to try and have a group discussion, where everyone knows what’s being said.

4. Put yourself on the line

Getting to the crux of the problem is essential to resolve any conflict. So, even if you don’t believe you’re involved directly, stay open to the idea that you may play a role. If this is does turn out to be the case, try to remain open and demonstrate a growth mindset. Make it known that you’re willing to change your behaviour. If the resolution process does take this turn, consider asking someone else to step in to assume the role of mediator to make sure that everyone is comfortable communicating openly and honestly.

Once things are under control again, it’s important to examine the underlying reasons that could have contributed to this conflict and make changes where you can.

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