Conflict management is a process and set of techniques to resolve or manage the adverse effects of conflicts in an organization. It has long been recognized as an essential topic for human resource development, and it is now increasingly being studied by organizational scholars such as strategy consultants. Conflicts are inevitable. Whether it's a disagreement with your boss, or an argument between friends, conflicts happen, and they will continue to happen. The important thing is handling those conflicts to get the best possible outcome for all parties involved. Conflict management is an integral part of your interpersonal skills, and how you manage conflict will determine your relationships with others.
Types of conflicts in a workplace
- Task-based conflicts- These problems arise when a task requires everyone's contribution in the team to be completed. If an employee has not submitted his work, it will affect the submission deadline of the entire project. Another example is when people involved in a project or business disagree on the steps to take. This disagreement often leads to heated arguments and confusion among team members, which can be detrimental to productivity.
- Leadership conflicts- Every leader has their leadership style. Some are bold and strict on rules and deadlines, whereas others are warm and friendly. The problem arises when people of different personalities do not adapt to the leadership styles. Leaders need to be aware of their work styles and connect with their employees regardless of their leadership styles.
- Personality-based conflicts- Personality-based conflicts arise from differences in how people perceive themselves or their environment. These can be very difficult to deal with because they often stem from deep-rooted beliefs about oneself or their world. It is essential to understand that we need to respect each other's differences rather than expecting them to behave the way we want them to.
How to identify sources of conflict?
It is a good idea to identify the sources to take corrective actions to prevent them in the future. Here are some familiar sources that could lead to interpersonal conflict.
- Lack of role clarification- Conflicts can emerge when people are not confident about what tasks they have to accomplish. Clear job descriptions and proper explanations by project managers or leaders can resolve this.
- Flawed process- Improper construction of processes or procedures can create conflicts. Review your process periodically to look for loopholes and ensure they are appropriately designed.
- Improper communication- Lot of misunderstanding arises when ideas are not communicated clearly. Disputes often happen when more employees work on a single task which leads to loss of productivity and eventually failure in projects. Keeping your communication channels clear will pass on the information from leaders to lower-level employees.
- Unreasonable time constraints – Workplace conflicts occur when employees are not aware of the deadlines or time required to be spent on each activity. As a result, managers expect more of employees even after giving their best. It is a good idea to set specific deadlines to achieve each objective so that employees know what is expected of them.
Communication skills required to resolve conflicts
No matter how you implement your strategies to prevent conflicts, conflicts are inevitable that happens everywhere. To deal with conflicts during emergencies or when things are out of your control, your communication skills will be your savior. Here are some ways to resolve a dispute and improve the relationship with your colleagues:
- Proactive to address issues - When a conflict arises among your team, take immediate steps to resolve it. Delaying or avoiding conflicts will increase conflicts as the people involved in conflict won't step back. Ask open and honest questions to get to the root cause of the problem, as the more information you have, the easier it will be to resolve conflicts
- Active listening- Listening is an undervalued skill that when applied effectively, can resolve many conflicts. You may be hearing what your colleagues say, but, in most cases, people don't understand the words, especially in a group meeting.
- Respect personal imbalances- Opposing beliefs and viewpoints can cause many heated arguments and misunderstandings among employees. If opposing personalities is the root cause of your problem, recognizing each other's differences can help solve them. Everyone has their perspective on a situation and respecting their opinion and views will build good relationships and solve conflicts.
Strategies to implement conflict management :
- Conflict management training – Train your employees to deal with conflict situations instead of depending on managers. Managers might be busy with other tasks or may not be available at the office for some reason, so employees should take responsibility for resolving conflicts under their control. Create some guidelines as to what they must follow if they experience conflict.
- Framework to minimize conflict- There are different kinds of strategies to follow depending upon the priority of conflict. There are written HR policies that guide managers on how disputes should be handled. Agreements and contracts with executives ensure a common understanding of the employment relationship.
- Careful hiring- The character and moral of an employee is as important as his skills and qualification. An organization should teach the best practices to filter out the most genuine and skilled employees and avoid any conflicts in the future. This includes background verification, proper interview procedures, pre-employment screening.
- Distribution of work- When workload is unequally distributed, few workers get annoyed and even resign from their job. Use various software and tools to distribute your work evenly and take employee feedbacks regarding their workload.
- Classification of conflicts- Categorize the conflicts and prioritize solving them as per the seriousness of the problem and escalate the ones that are on a high priority to the senior level staff and lower priority to the team members.