At any given time, a business can have hundreds of employees. No two of these employees are alike. As a result, conflict in the workplace is inevitable. If not properly addressed, conflict in a business undermines company objectives. Resolving workplace conflict thus is a priority in most human resources departments.
Why Conflict Occurs
To resolve conflict, you must understand its roots. Conflict occurs because people have different needs, philosophies, personalities and goals. It also happens because of the stress employees feel at any given time and because employees have different ideas about positions, relationships and resources. Recognizing these differences is crucial to reducing and eliminating conflict in the workplace because it gives you a sense of direction in terms of how to approach a given dispute.
Why Resolution Matters
When conflict remains unchecked in the workplace, it creates emotional barriers between employees. These barriers stop employees from working effectively together toward the overall goals of the organization. When this happens, productivity and efficiency often suffer. This directly influences the ability of the business to produce goods and services and maintain a healthy client base. That in turn impacts revenue. If revenue falls significantly enough, a business could have a difficult time remaining competitive in the market. Conflict resolution keeps employees working together so that the business can meet its objectives and stay operational.
Perhaps the biggest weapon against conflict in the workplace is active listening. This means giving everyone an opportunity to speak, being sensitive to the connotations of words used and watching the unspoken messages hidden within body language. It also means providing opportunities for feedback and looking at situations from multiple angles. Solving conflict also is possible through recognizing and controlling emotions -- that is, through being emotionally intelligent. You can also diffuse conflict by accepting the differences people have. Accepting differences doesn't mean you have to start acting differently yourself; it simply means that you understand there is more than one way to be, act and believe and that people have a right to express who they are. You also can reduce conflict by showing employees how they are perceiving a situation -- sometimes people react based on their perception rather than facts and the reality of a situation. Mediation is another powerful resolution tool, as is humor.
However you solve conflict, do it quickly -- the longer you wait to address underlying issues, the more those issues fester and the worse the situation becomes.
Although it is important to resolve negative conflict -- the type of conflict that hurts employees personally and damages the organization -- some conflict is useful to a business. For instance, healthy conflict challenges employees to be creative in solving business issues and to see the broadness of the potential client base. Because any conflict quickly can become negative, management still has to control conflict carefully in these situations and be direct about what types of employee actions are acceptable.