Written by Alex Hattingh, Chief People Officer at Employment Hero
With 55% of employees in the UK planning to move jobs this year*, managers and leading HRs should be aware of the ways they can avoid workplace conflict to ensure that employees don’t have to consider switching roles so drastically.
Conflicts are inevitable, even in the most engaged workplaces. Regardless of the source of the conflict, if they are left unresolved, conflicts can quickly impact employee morale and productivity.
Before finding a way to better manage team conflict, HRs have to be aware of the types of conflict that can occur once we understand conflict, employers can then implement the necessary tools to help their teams deal with conflict in the workplace.
Conflict with the boss
The situation of an employee who has constant clashes with their boss typically comes about when their boss shows little faith in their skills and ability and doesn’t have confidence that the employee can get the job done without micromanagement.
The individual may have been overlooked for a promotion, or their boss may have different ideas about what the employee’s role should be, and very different perceptions about priorities and what needs to be done.
Conflict with a colleague
In today’s working world, collaboration is key. But, the office can be a stressful, competitive place that doesn’t always bring out everyone’s best side.
Tension can flare up among co-workers for any number of reasons. From perceptions of unfair workloads, unjust recognition, favouritism, to different views on how a task should be completed. However, some of the most problematic conflicts with colleagues come about because of personal values, and office politics.
Conflict with managers or team members
Conflict with managers can erupt if a team member appears to be slacking off and not pulling their weight, while their poor performance goes unchecked.
At the same time, workplace change like a new boss or a peer being given more responsibility can also spark conflict as workers try to adapt to new situations. Other factors include an individual’s self-esteem, personal goals, values and needs.
How to resolve team conflict
There are several methods of addressing conflict within a team but by having a thorough understanding of the types of team conflict your workplace is dealing with, the easier it will be to resolve them.
How to resolve conflict with a boss
If there is a conflict between a boss and an employee, it’s important to understand the boss’s goals and motivations, while letting the employee express their concerns, while exploring ways for them to work better together.
For example, the boss may have no idea that the employee was looking for more responsibility, and their “micromanaging” of them was just their way of making sure the employee didn’t get overwhelmed with the tasks at hand. Getting insight into a boss’s reasoning and outlook may spark ideas about new techniques for handling the situation.
How to go about resolving conflict with a colleague
With an honest and open approach, you can resolve most types of co-worker conflicts. When it comes to differing views on how a task should be accomplished, it’s important to recognise all ideas and find common ground. Focus on what aspects both parties agree on, and figure out if there’s one way that appeals to both of them. If not, approach someone higher up to get their help in making the decision. To resolve more difficult conflicts with colleagues, it’s important to approach the situation with a positive attitude and focus on solutions, rather than apportioning blame.
How to manage conflict in a team
Finally, how do you handle conflict between team members? The longer a conflict between team members goes on, the more it will snowball. So, it’s important to have difficult conversations with the team members early on.
Look at issues objectively, and make work-related outcomes and behavioural expectations clear. Alternatively, where both team members have credible ideas on a solution yet cannot find common ground, draw on a senior member of staff to help find the compromise.
It’s important to understand that a conflict-free workplace is not necessarily a good thing. Conflict is both normal and healthy. It’s all about managing team conflict and creating a culture where dissent is encouraged and where everyone feels safe to disagree with one another can spark innovation and future success.