There is no industry or company that is free of conflict. When people work together—especially in stressful situations—more likely than not, there is going to be some bumping of heads. That being said, there is a good way and a bad way to address these issues. It is important that you know how to work with different people to effectively mitigate conflict, while strengthening your team at the same time.
It is estimated that somewhere between 30-40% of a typical manager’s day is spent addressing team conflicts. This includes everything from small interpersonal mishaps to larger, more serious problems. And it makes sense that issues arise, especially in a fast-paced, high-stress work environment. That said, it is important that conflicts are addressed right away, otherwise you risk having to deal with more serious consequences, including decreased productivity and morale, which results in increased turnover.
Pretty much any conflict—whether personal or professional—can be boiled down to an unmet need. This issue is then often exacerbated by a lack of communication. For example, you may start to see problems with an employee who doesn’t feel that he or she is seen as a valued member of the team. This means that they might start putting in less effort, lowering the quality of their work. Similarly, issues could occur if some employees feel that a colleague is not pulling his or her weight on a project. Unless this problem is addressed, it will just continue to strain the relationship of the team members, which could negatively affect the end-product as well as workplace morale.
Both of these examples are made worse by a lack of communication. When it comes to conflict management, the most important thing you need to do is listen. More often than not, individuals just need to be heard. Give them the time and space to voice their concerns, and the situation will typically resolve itself. The important thing is to make sure to listen to each side, and you do so both openly and unconditionally.
When you prioritize listening over speaking, you actually help employees come to resolutions on their own. This is opposed to mandating solutions that don’t truly satisfy any party, which means that the issue has not been fully resolved. The goal is to be more of a mediator than a “fixer.” By focusing on and facilitating open and honest communication, each party is more likely to feel heard and satisfied with the proposed resolution.
While we may not always have control over how other people act, we do have control over how we react. We should do our best to promote communication so that—when situations inevitably arise—they can be addressed swiftly and come to a positive conclusion. Make sure that your team knows that they are encouraged to come to you with any issue, and that you will make yourself available to work with them to find a suitable solution.