Steps to resolve conflict in the workplace should include understanding the problem, encouraging responsibility, reacting quickly, working together to find a solution, exploring training and development requirements, providing a good role model and keeping accurate records.
All organisations will have conflict from time to time. Conflict is natural within a healthy group dynamic and can sometimes be useful. Not everyone will have the same priorities and points of view and it is your responsibility to keep your team dynamic positive, on track and productive. Failure to do so can result in a working environment which is unpleasant and uncomfortable. When there is discord in the workplace it often affects everybody.
Steps to resolve conflict
Understand the problem
As a project manager it is essential for you to remain impartial. You must take emotion, hearsay, personal opinion and bias out of the matter. Deal with the facts of the situation in an ordered and systematic way. Don’t make any assumptions. Take your time to talk to the people involved and the explore the issue to firstly work out what has happened.
Reinforce the message that employees are responsible for their own behaviour and you will not become involved in every small incident and complaint. After all you are a project manager, not a parent. Constant micro managing of staff can cause ongoing problems as individuals fail to find ways to work together constructively without your input. This is a waste of time and skills. Of course you need to facilitate your team to find solutions. Provide guidance when it is needed but don’t always swoop in to fix the problem. This will cause more harm than good in the long run.
React quickly and directly
On occasions when things can not be resolved, you will need to step in. If left to fester for too long, disputes can become toxic and impact not just on the working environment but also on the reputation of the company. Be clear that all employees are accountable for their behaviour. Failure to resolve issues and ongoing disputes and disagreements can easily lead to disciplinary action if not resolved.
Work together to find a solution
Engage the individuals involved to actively seek a solution together. Bring them together and facilitate and fair and calm discussion giving each person an opportunity to explain their perception of the situation. Listen to what they say. Keep the conversation factual and avoid emotion clouding the matter.
Employees do not need to be friends but they do need to work together. Part of their responsibility is to work as a team. Make sure this message is clear. Encourage staff to work together to resolve conflict.
Explore training and team building activities
Once you have started to explore the matter you may decide that staff training may be beneficial. Likewise it may be an opportune time to consider some team building activities. This can reenergise a team, generate trust, improve communication, minimise conflict and encourage collaboration.
Be a role model
Team members will naturally look to their manager for cues on appropriate behaviour. For example, if you speak to staff in a rude and inappropriate way it is likely they will too. By conducting yourself appropriately and keeping to the rules and procedures of your working environment, your team will look up to this as an example of how to behave in the workplace.
Keep a record
Any conflict should be recorded in some way. This protects both you and the individuals involved from the matter becoming more serious and disputed at a later date. Recording incidents will also help you monitor behaviour and notice any patterns or triggers. This can be done during one to ones and in work plans. Ideally written records should include details of the incident, the resolution agreed on by all parties and a signature from those involved to state it is a true and accurate record of what happened.
Engage in Learning provide Managing Conflict Pathway courses which will help you develop an effective and professional manner to handle conflict well and use it as a catalyst for growth and innovation. The Managing Conflict course will teach you how to identify causes, respond appropriately and develop successful strategies to mediate and resolve conflict.