Conflict resolution: the lifeline to a thriving team

Conflict is a natural part of any workplace involving people with diverse personalities and backgrounds. However, when conflict occurs, many aspects of the business are affected, so we must understand how to actually manage it.

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Differences in opinions, beliefs, or perspectives can often lead to conflicts in any team environment. While they can create disruptive disagreements, conflicts can actually be good for our growth and innovation if handled properly. Ignoring conflict will only reduce efficiency and morale in the team. So, what are the dos and don’ts?

Resolving conflict: do’s

  • Establish a clear process: Having a clear and easy-to-find process for resolving conflicts is super important, especially in large companies where HR plays a big role. If you’re not using HR, make sure the mediators you choose have the right qualities and support, as assessed by the leadership team.

  • Listen to all sides: Listening is underrated and often overlooked as a crucial part of resolving issues. When you carefully listen, you make space to understand different perspectives before attempting to solve the issue. You don’t want to be making premature decisions that might overlook underlying problems.

  • Monitor and follow up: After you’ve implemented conflict resolution measures, it’s important to monitor their progress. This will help you ensure that they’re still working well over time.

  • Educate on communication and personality types: Help employees understand that everyone communicates differently and, of course, has different personalities. When your team recognises this, they are more likely to have patience and a greater understanding of each other.

  • Facilitate self-resolution: Encourage conflicted parties to discuss their issues and find their path forward, creating their own rules and boundaries.

  • Invest in regular training sessions and workshops on conflict resolution, negotiation skills, and effective communication techniques. These educational initiatives equip employees with the tools needed to prevent and resolve disputes proactively, enhancing overall team cohesion and reducing the need for formal mediation.

  • Implement structured feedback mechanisms: Regular one-on-one meetings and performance reviews are a great way to keep the conversation going between team members and management. This way, you can address any issues or conflicts before they get worse. If there’s any concern that might be tough to say upfront, anonymous feedback tools can be used to express it safely.

Avoiding common mistakes: don’ts

  • Do not ignore conflict: When issues are left unresolved, they can quickly spiral out of control, causing problems for the people directly involved and the rest of the team.

  • Avoid overreliance on team building: While team building is valuable for fostering better connections and engagement, it should not be seen as a strategy for resolving deeper conflicts.

  • Prevent gossip and drama: Discourage discussions of the conflict outside the involved parties and HR. Encourage the individuals involved to talk it out and come to a resolution, and if necessary, provide them with HR support. When conflicts are discussed freely around the workplace, it can lead to misinformation, rumours, drama and even bullying.

  • Be prepared to make tough decisions: Sometimes, even after your best efforts to resolve conflicts, it might be time to consider separating the parties involved. Although separation is often viewed as a last resort, it could prevent further issues and wider morale issues through teams.  It can also create a safer environment by removing what’s causing tension and enabling the involved parties to work on their issues independently.

The impact of ignored conflict

During an operational review for a company experiencing phenomenal revenue growth but declining margins and morale, while there were many contributors to these effects, we found major issues stemming from unaddressed conflicts. Key conflicts included a project manager not sharing essential information to the debt collection because of personal disagreements, leading to cash flow problems and strained client relationships. Furthermore, a well-intentioned leadership team member tried to handle HR problems without the right skills or authority. Employees could vent, but nothing got resolved. This case shows how important it is for companies to have proper conflict management channels and trained personnel.

Proactive conflict management

Effective conflict resolution requires proactive measures and a commitment from all levels of the organisation. We can foster a more collaborative and positive work environment by addressing conflicts promptly and effectively.

Encourage everyone to engage with your conflict resolution processes and reach out for support when needed. It’s essential for maintaining a safe, healthy, and productive workplace. Remember, resolving conflicts is a skill vital for every employee, not just the HR department.

If you don’t know where to begin, want to talk through something, or have a specific question but are not sure who to address it to, fill in the form, and we’ll get back to you within two working days.

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