Preventing and resolving workplace conflict
As an employer, you know that you will come across conflict in the workplace. How you deal with it can affect productivity. It is in your best interest to prevent conflict or resolve it early, so that your business can continue to run smoothly. If it does arise, work towards early resolution by avoiding barriers that could interfere with solving the problem.
Barriers to problem resolution
- Failing to distinguish between operational and interpersonal conflicts
- Refusing to consider other points of view
- Losing sight of the problem and blaming others
- Making assumptions about others' intentions
- Jumping to conclusions without having all the information
- Using only one type of approach
- Creating drama
- Rushing into quick-fix solutions
Sometimes improving how you give and receive feedback can prevent conflict from developing. A good exchange of feedback allows you and your staff to understand clearly the issues at hand. Communicate effectively by following these simple guidelines.
- Identify the behaviour you wish to discuss, such as dealing with deadlines.
- Refer to the specific situation where you observed this behaviour. Use a clear example, like a recent missed deadline.
- Describe the impact or consequences of this behaviour. In this case, explain how the missed deadline affected the rest of the process.
- Listen to the other person's explanation.
- Make a specific request for action. Ask for a warning if it looks like the deadline could be missed.
- Point out approaches that could have positive results, such as checking in earlier to see if everything is on track.
- Be open to the message.
- Listen for the context.
- Be aware of your reactions.
- Summarize what you have just heard. Describe your behaviour and its impact.
- Clarify by asking questions or providing more information.
- Respond to the request. If possible, suggest alternatives.
If you can control conflict in the workplace, you may begin to see it as a positive element. It can challenge you to consider situations from different perspectives and promote problem-solving. Let differing opinions enrich the workplace rather than weaken it.
Resolving Conflict also presents useful guidelines to dealing effectively with conflict. When considering the various approaches to addressing conflict, keep in mind that different options lead to different outcomes. Problem SOLVED! A Guide for Employers and Practitioners offers a further look at problem-solving. For more detailed information on employment standards and industrial relations, please refer to our section on Employment Standards.
To learn more about keeping the workplace running smoothly, visit our section on Managing your employees.