Conflict in the workplace has been occurring as long as there has been organised labour. Regardless of the industry or rate of pay, if you put a group of diverse individuals into a shared space for eight hours a day, five days a week, tensions are bound to rise at some point.
Most conflict in the workplace results from minor differences. Personalities might not ‘gel’ or people might do things that are mildly annoying but, over time, escalate to become infuriating, such as talking too loudly, hogging the printer or leaving dirty dishes in the sink.
More serious issues such as poor performance, bullying and harassment should always be brought to the attention of HR, who have strict processes for effectively dealing with these types of behaviour.
Strategies for workplace conflict resolution
Here are five conflict resolution techniques that can make a huge difference when trying to resolve issues at work:
· Do not let issues escalate to breaking point. Discuss a problem early on, before it becomes an even bigger problem, drawing more people into it and spiralling out of control.
· Be fair and give the other person a heads-up that you want to catch up with them to discuss the issue, so they are not blindsided when you do sit down with them.
· Consider the possibility that this workplace conflict could have arisen from a simple misunderstanding due to different communication styles and/or personalities. If this is the case then some compromise will be required from both of you to accommodate this and to ensure the issue is put to bed.
· Keep the atmosphere professional and mature– avoid name calling, passive aggression or just outright aggression. These are never appropriate responses for dealing with conflict – they will only make things worse and result in you not being taken seriously.
· Try to keep your emotions in check. Crying or yelling will only make the situation awkward and uncomfortable for both of you. If you feel like you might swing this way, take some time out beforehand to channel your energy and calm your thoughts.
Ultimately, attitude and tolerance are everything when you are trying to resolve conflicts. To foster a productive and happy work environment we must take a balanced and thoughtful approach to how you deal with problems with your colleagues. Conflict is not always negative – it can occasionally have a positive outcome.
It is important to acknowledge that we are not always going to like everyone we work with or agree with what everyone says, but we do need to remain respectful and professional when it comes to working relationships, particularly when conflicts inevitably arise.
Remember: Refer serious issues to the HR department
Trying to resolve serious conflicts without HR mediation can lead to even bigger problems and potential legal action.
Written by Alisa Moore, Research & Community Manager at Gaulter Russell Numero.