Leaders often tolerate conflict as a normal part of workplace interactions. This can lead to workplaces where everyone is simply trying to survive and there isn't much team building or cohesion. Many leaders and employees view chronic, habitual conflict as normal. People are allowed to cut each other down, make hurtful comments or threaten each other (overtly or more subtly) while leaders look on and admire their energy and camaraderie.
Traditionally, many of our workplaces have been rough and tumble zones where only the fittest survive. This dynamic tends to sap productivity and morale over time because only a few people thrive and the remainder get demoralized. Our predecessors might have been unable to envision a workplace that didn't encourage conflict but we can.
We have the ability to create kinder workplaces where people have the opportunity to work well together and build positive work environments. We can fight less and face our challenges united. In the past, we let conflict fester and permeate our workplaces but now we have tools to actually fix things.
Some practical elements you can think about when workplace conflict arises include:
- What is the problem really about?
- Do you know what each employee thinks about the problem?
- Have you all worked together to come up with possible solutions?
- Is everyone's voice listened to and given equal weight?
- Does everyone know how to listen to other points of view?
- Can people deal with conflict without escalating?
- Is conflict an opportunity for change in your workplace?
- How are your communication skills?
- Do you have a consistent system for resolving conflict?
- Do you ask for help from neutral, uninvolved third parties?
Team building and conflict resolution in the workplace depend on you as a leader. You decide whether your workplace advances without direction or follows a more productive path. Consider the following ideas for your workplace:
- Develop a clear, concise conflict resolution strategy that is taught and followed at all levels.
- Build productive, two-way communication skills by teaching your employees how to communicate effectively.
- Highlight the importance of listening skills and teach everyone how to listen to each other.
- Practice team building by giving everyone the framework and tools to collaborate.
- Set a positive example by behaving in ways that support team building, conflict resolution and collaboration.
These concepts help leaders and organizations resolve conflicts more effectively and build happier organizations. The only catch is that they take commitment but, those who take the plunge and build up these core skills, enjoy long-term health and success. What will you do to help your teams reduce conflict?