Conflict at work is inevitable in a thriving innovative environment. For example, competition between teams or individuals may bring out the best in people, particularly if there is a prize or reward for the most successful. A state of ‘Healthy’ competition is good for the workplace and has a number of benefits such as, attracting the best candidates for advertised roles, retention of staff and increased productivity.
Conversely, conflict that develops into something ‘personal’ between two or more persons may have a disproportionate affect on the way others perform their roles. Unresolved conflict may lead to a decrease in productivity, difficulties in recruiting the right staff and increased absenteeism through sickness, particularly stress related conditions.
People may react to workplace conflict in a number of ways.
Fight – we’ve probably all seen a verbal argument at work, sometimes it provides the cure to the dispute, or it may lead to more deeply entrenched positions with other workers being expected to ‘take sides’ and demonstrate allegiance by a lack of co-operation or communication with the ‘other side’.
Flight – some individuals will turn their back on what’s going on in the hope that the problem will just go away.
Freeze – someone unsure as to how they should deal with the situation may become passive, efforts to deal with the situation may be ‘half hearted’ through a lack of conviction or confidence and the issue never gets resolved.
Workplace conflict can be resolved by;
Having a quiet word, an informal approach can often solve the problem; it may be that the persons concerned were unaware of the impact of their behaviour on the rest of the workforce.
Informal investigation, speaking to those involved in or affected by the dispute, and taking appropriate action may provide a solution.
Internal processes, grievance procedures or a formal investigation may be necessary; the downside of formal procedures is that there is often somebody found to be at fault. This process creates a winner and loser and may lead to resentment, withdrawal or further attempts to get back at the organisation or another individual involved.
Training for line managers around topics such as, ‘Managing difficult conversations’ could lead to conflict being identified, and dealt with, at an early stage rather than when positions have become entrenched.
Focus Mediator – An accredited impartial mediator facilitates communication between people in dispute to improve their future working relationship and restore their productivity. Workplace mediators accept that personal differences may continue, but the mediator helps the parties to find their own solution to their dispute or problem, so that they can work together effectively.