One-the-job conflict is bound to happen whether you’re running a construction company or factory or any other type of workplace. Any time you combine a group of people, the potential for conflict exists.
Below is a list of the most important things to look for when attempting to spot conflict. We’ll also share ideas for mitigating this conflict.
No one wants to deal with conflict in the workplace, and no one automatically knows how to resolve every workplace conflict that they are presented with. But following these guidelines and approaching each situation with intention, curiosity, dedication to the company’s overall best interest, and empathy toward your employees can make conflict manageable.
The Most Important Thing:
In my trade business coaching, I always stress that the most important thing you can do about conflict in the workplace is to be proactive in spotting and addressing it.
Some signs you can look for to spot conflict before it gets out of hand are:
- A drop in the quality of work that an employee is producing or a drop in how they are performing
- A decrease in water-cooler chatter. Less talking about the simple things, and less general friendliness between employees.
- An increase in requests for days off and/or sick leave being taken.
- An increase in requests for changes to routine assignments
- An increase in requests to move to other teams.
- New problems being brought up in one-on-one meetings
What you’re looking for in these signs is a change in behavior amongst one or a few employees that is both new and unexpected. This is a red flag that there is more going on.
How to Assist in Resolving Conflict:
The best way to assist when there is conflict is to listen, provide consideration to all sides, ask clarifying questions, and make any final decisions with empathy and based on facts, not emotions.
Below we outline the four tips in more detail.
When an employee comes to you with a conflict, put your phone down, close your laptop, and offer the employee your undivided attention. Listen carefully to what they have to say about what’s causing them distress. Understand that all conflict has three sides – their side, the other side, and the unbiased truth. The employee talking with you needs to understand that you hear them, even if you don’t agree with their perspective.
Remember that the employees involved likely have heightened emotions. Have your employees listen to each other. Then, have them summarize each other’s points of view on what they agree and disagree on. Show them consideration during the conversation and model the type of interaction that you would like for them to have with each other. Keep an open mind for yourself, and manage your own emotions during the discussion.
Ask clarifying questions that don’t place blame or fault, but that seek to better understand. Try to ask “what” questions or “how” questions over “why” questions. “Why” questions can often be seen as judgmental, so avoid them if you can. Ensure that you’re not putting words into your employees’ mouths and that you are asking questions that allow them to express their concerns and frustrations.
If the employees can’t reach a compromise on their own, then you will have to make a decision. The decision isn’t about who is “right” or who is “wrong” – the decision is about what is best for the team, the company as a whole, and for overall employee morale. Be willing to hear frustrations about your decision, but hold the expectation that their feedback will be delivered professionally. Make sure you keep appropriate documentation on the event, the solutions offered, and the final outcome.
Final thoughts on resolving conflict:
The whole process, from noticing the potential for conflict or the conflict being brought to you, to going through the process of assisting with resolving the conflict and making a final decision, needs to be handled with empathy.
Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and to see things from their point of view. Being empathetic does not mean you agree with them, it simply means that you are trying to better understand where they are coming from. Empathy allows you to ask questions and to give a final decision from a place of firmness but also kindness. Showing empathy during times of conflict and distress allows employees to feel heard and to know that no matter the final decision, you have their best interests as well as the company’s best interest at heart.