Article: Workplace Conflict Resolution- Actions to Avoid

By Deepika Pillai, Director- HR, Xavient Information Systems

Workplace conflict is very common and it happens in all corners of the organization. There are very few offices where all the employees get along. Hence, conflict resolution is a necessary component of the workplace, and those in a leadership position must be skilled in conflict resolution techniques.  When conflicts go unaddressed, they can have a negative impact on productivity and teamwork. It is important to address such issues in order to maintain a cordial environment at work. Clashes can be avoided if steps are taken early in a discussion to diffuse anger and facilitate communication, and it can be resolved by applying a series of thoughtfully applied steps.

Deepika Pillai, Director- HR, Xavient Information Systems

Some necessary actions for speedier resolutions:

• Do not Delay - Do not avoid confrontation. Never delay the required action or discussion, hoping the conflict to end on its own. If not addressed timely, it will get worse and might become even more difficult to handle.

• Don’t be swayed by office politics - When politics get in the way, it’s time to step in cautiously. Do not offend or alienate any group. You must understand the viewpoints of all the parties involved and know the right time to step-in. Find out if the conflict is work-related and has a structural root, or whether it’s interpersonal and has no relationship to the job, Byrnes advises. An interpersonal conflict can happen on or off the job, whereas structural ones are inevitable in many organizations.

• Listen to understand – Always let everyone complete whatever they have to say, listen carefully and analyse accordingly. You might be aware of the situation but it is important to know everything from the horse’s mouth in order to frame the right picture.

• Gather the group - Avoid meeting separately with the parties involved. Everyone has a different story and everyone believes that their side of the story is correct. It is important to understand the whole picture in common meetings with all people involved, to address it effectively.

• Be impartial - Do not express or make any parties involved that you might be in favor or agree with one parties viewpoints until a common discussion has been held. Else your involvement will not be valued and might be considered biased.

• Avoid using coercion and intimidation - Emotional outbursts or coercing people may stop the problem temporarily but it is not a long-term solution. The next time when the problem re-occurs, it will become even tougher to fight.

• Communicate clearly - Do not leave the decision of taking corrective action upon people involved. It must be clearly communicated that everyone should commit to change and treat each other better.

• Promote Teamwork – This is the most effective remedy for a conflict. Always promote the importance and benefits of working within a team. When people are surrounded with positive effects of something, they will be motivated to leave their personal struggles behind and be motivated to work in a team.

• State Your Case - Help people understand your perspective on things without making them defensive. Be tactful enough to present your side of the story. To the extent you can disarm the audience, they will be calmer towards you and try and listen to what you actually say.

• Focus on the problem, not the person - Focus on identifying and resolving the conflict. If, after careful and thorough analysis, you determine that the individual is the problem, then focus on the individual at that point. Find the essence of the problem and act accordingly. Managers mostly turn away from their least favorite employees. Rather than interacting with them, they avoid them. This definitely increases the problem way more.

• Be impartial - Do not meet the parties with any pre-conceived opinions based on any other feedback you may have. The incident must be taken in its fresh form and any opinions must be made only after analyzing all aspects. Don’t take sides, be fair and unbiased.

• Announce Acclaim – Always praise in public. The motivation doubles when a team member is praised within the team and it encourages others to follow the lead. This in turn, increases the will for team work, builds a positive work environment and reduces the chance for conflicts.

• Identify the true impediment - In every conflict, the roots might go back to where it all started between the parties involved and it is important to go back there and pull it from the start. Things on the surface might look easier to resolve but if not everything is resolved in depth, chances are that they might crop up again, and very soon.

Everyone at work and every employee, with whom the conflicting employees interact, is affected by the stress. People feel as if they are walking on egg shells in the presence of the antagonists. This contributes to the creation of a hostile work environment for other employees. Therefore, the focus should be on resolving the issues right where they crop up and not allow them to shape into big blown conflicts. Conflicts are inevitable in any organization but the sooner the management acts on it, the better. Having said that, effort should be made on educating the staff on being open to the possibility of a co-worker's perception being different than one’s own.

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