Dealing with Conflicts in the Workplace January 1st, 2010
Conflicts are common place in life and the workplace is no exception. It is very difficult to deal with problems in the workplace, especially when specific individuals do not get along very well, but that makes it even more important. We assume that most people spend a minimum of 8 hours a day working and another 8 hours a day sleeping, so the time that an individual spends at work is about 50 percent of the time that he/she is awake. Without a proper plan for conflict resolution, some employees could be spending about half of their waking hours dealing with disagreements. This has a real good possibility of affecting morale and productivity in the working environment. So many people are asking how these conflicts can be avoided, and if they cannot, how can they be resolved?
One of the easiest ways to avoid conflict at work is to take a proactive approach, as a manager to prevent issues that show signs of popping up in the future. Some of these methods include bringing up these issues before they become problems, being aware of the triggers, and providing training for employees. The easiest and most effective method to preventing or quickly resolving work related conflicts is to establish very visible and clear guidelines with how to deal with an issue. By posting these guidelines in a common area in the office will make it impossible for employees not to see them on a daily basis. As well as posting the guidelines in a common area, it is important to hold a meeting to clearly establish the guidelines as well as answer any questions that employees might have. If the guidelines do not do the trick and a mediator needs to get involved, here are a few steps that will help the process move along smoothly.
1. Clearly define the problem. This is the initial step in the process and it is very important to establish this fact. When a problem ignites many times the different sides involved in the conflict might not know exactly what the other side has an issue with, and the issue will never be resolved until it is clearly stated.
2. Allow all sides to voice their opinion. One of the best ways to clearly define the problem is to allow each side to explain what their issue is and why. Make sure to keep each side within a certain time limit (most likely a couple of minutes) so that only the main points are focused on and the problem is not carried out for an extended period of time.
3. Identify the perfect end result. This might actually be the answer to solving the conflict, if people realize that their utopian solutions are actually not that much different than the opposition’s view point.
4. Figure out what realistically can be done. As the manager it is now important for you to decide whether or not each side’s proposed solution is even possible. It is important to make sure that the solution is aligned with corporate goals and the goals of the department. Also, make sure that to recognize how this solution will affect other employees and projects that may not be directly involved in this conflict, because certain solutions can have a big impact on the rest of the individuals in the work environment.
5. Compromise. After deciding what realistically can be done it is important to have both sides agree on a compromise. This can be done by explaining to employees how this compromise directly aligns with individual goals as well as the goals of the company.
These steps should be able to drastically reduce the number of conflicts in the work place and allow employees to get back to business as usual. It is really important to remember that conflicts are a very healthy part of every business, and if handled correctly can actually create bonds between employees and foster creativity. Most employers try to have a relatively diverse staff of employees in order to give different perspectives to different situations. As we see on almost a daily basis that with diversity also comes conflict, but if this conflict can be harnessed and directed towards a common goal, great things can happen. Full potential is not met by groups of people that constantly agree with each other. Success only comes when coworkers and peers disagree with each other and continue to improve their solutions and business practices.
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