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Resolving Workplace Conflicts

Workplace conflicts are inevitable. Almost 85 percent of employees experience conflicts in their workplace. Conflicts can lead to positive outcomes if management learns to resolve them with efficacy. When conflicts are dealt with quickly and effectively, they can be converted to greater understanding amongst employees, better solutions to problems, and even innovation and creativity. When management fails to act immediately, employee morale is lowered and productivity diminishes. Therefore, conflict resolution in the workplace is of utmost importance for a company’s bottom-line.

Conflicts occur in the workplace due to various reasons. Employees have to deal with different personalities, management styles, stress, discrimination, poor or differing styles of communication, and performance issues. Recognizing and understanding the different sources of conflict may be the first step toward a resolution.

Management-Related Conflicts

Managers come with various personalities and management styles. One manager may tend to micro-manage and control minute details of an employee’s work, while others may be too hands-off, leaving the employee in the dark as to what is required. Balancing a manager’s style with an employee’s needs is critical to creating a greater understanding of what may be required to complete the work at hand. Company policies should emphasize communication and accountability, as well as clearly define roles and expectations.

Performance-Related Conflicts

Conflicts can also arise when different departments do not follow deadlines or project requirements. Each department may be dependent on another department’s ability to fulfill their tasks in order to complete its own. Managers can play a critical role in avoiding such conflicts by delegating tasks clearly and ensuring that deadlines are being met along the way. Managers can also create incentives to ensure teams are motivated to complete their tasks on time, while also ensuring that teams are held accountable when they fail to meet requirements.

Clashing Personalities

Workplaces include individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, and socio-economic status. Diverse populations have differing and unique ways of approaching problems and people. Employees may have different styles in communicating and tolerances for others’ behavior. In these instances, managers should learn to listen to everyone’s grievances and empathize, sympathize, and communicate with sensitivity to address these conflicts in an equitable, equal, and uniform way.

Stress-Related Conflicts

Employees have to deal with different types of stress in the workplace. Employees may experience stress at work because they are being overextended, harassed, or discriminated against. Stress can cause resentment and lack of focus, leading to a decrease in productivity. Managers should identify the source of stress an employee is experiencing. This begins with first listening to the employee’s concerns with empathy and involve the Human Resources department if the stress is related to discrimination or harassment. If the conflict is due to lack of resources, managers need to address the issues immediately with flexibility and openness so that an equitable solution is reached.

What can Managers Do to Resolve Conflicts?

Managers can resolve conflicts that arise and improve outcomes when they focus on issues. First, a manager should actively listen to the employee’s concern to identify the issue. After recognizing the issue at hand, take immediate action by clearing up any misunderstandings between employees and facilitating open discussions. Also, managers can help resolve ensuing conflicts by reframing them in a positive light. Instead of referring to the issue as a conflict, a manager can reframe it to be a discussion or problem-solving session, turning the focus away from the conflict and toward open communication and resolution. A manager can also assist in conflict resolution by requesting workers propose solutions to the problems they are facing and mediate between them to reach a consensus.

The legal team at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser help clients with labor relations and employment law-related issues. For more information, contact us online or call us at 484-318-7106 for an initial consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and New Jersey.