It’s been a Friday. It isn’t even 9 am and you just want to put your head in your hands. On your way in the door, you hear two of your top managers in the midst of a verbal tussle. Immediately you see an email from your accounting manager regarding a missed deadline. And before you even get a cup of coffee, your best customer is on the phone with—you guessed it—a problem. What do you do?
It’s true, conflict is a fact of life these days. Recent studies found that a whopping 85% of employees at all levels experienced some degree of conflict. It’s a fact; when we work together in teams, there are tons of variables-after all, people come with varying degrees of information, experience, expertise and goals. And because conflict occurs when people’s concerns appear to be incompatible, sometimes people (including ourselves) can be, well… difficult.
Wondering what causes all of this conflict? In its Human Capital Report on Workplace Conflict, CPP Global says that the main causes of conflict in today’s workplace are:
- Personality clashes/warring egos (49%)
- Stress (34%)
- Heavy workloads/inadequate resources (33%)
- Poor leadership (29%)
- Lack of honesty and openness (26%)
Here are 5 strategies you can use to reduce conflict in your workplace today:
Recognize the symptoms: Got gossip? Noticing more absences on your team? Then you’ll likely have conflict. People report that, when there’s conflict, they feel nervous, stressed and even sometimes…sick. How can you prevent this? Do a little homework in advance. I saw a great LinkedIn article today by Dharmesh Shah, “Holiday Gifts EVERY Employee Secretly Wants” (find it here: http://linkd.in/1cpk05y). He reminds us that we all want to fee valued, included and connected with our teams. This one’s good all year long.
Flip it around: Sure, conflict can have negative results. It can also have POSITIVE consequences. The key is to look at what I call the layers of opportunity. If there’s a conflict between departments over our budget process, for example, is there a possibility we can actually improve it by understanding what didn’t work? If two managers are at odds over a decision regarding people placement, can a little creativity on how to best use our personnel help us clarify our thoughts and lead to better decision making? Try these on for size!
Write it down! So, we’re not all experts in this area. That’s ok. A great way to start is by actually keeping a log on the conflicts that comp up. It may take a little extra time, but you’ll be able to see how patterns emerge. I also think it’s a great idea to script out possible solutions. If you’re worried about what to say or how to say it when you approach a conflict, try scripting it out in advance. You don’t have to read from it (or even sneak a peek), but it’s a great way to get your thoughts straight.
Garner support: Perhaps you have a staff meeting planned and you know that at least one item on your agenda may cause conflict. What should you do? I’d suggest asking for a little feedback in advance. Depending on your topic and your plan, of course, chat a little with key stakeholders in advance to get their feedback and support.
Practice: There’s nothing like practice to make a difference. You really can help your team by providing them with a few practical tips they can use on the frontline. Start by developing a few short scenarios (this should take only about ten minutes)—you’re familiar with your business, so choose some general areas where conflict occurs and jot them down.
© 2013-2014 Shannon Alter