3 Steps to Handle Team Conflicts
Conflict occurs when there is a difference between two or more people, when the emotions are heightening, and resolution is breaking down. Conflict arises with a manager and employee or between team members.
Differences between team members can be useful as it offers more input into a situation which can provide stronger projects and team relationships. Different perspectives can enhance the growth of the team members and increase the success of a project. It creates energy and engagement of team members.
Where it becomes a conflict is when there is no resolution in place to handle differences, and the people have broken the bond, and no one is willing to collaborate to create a solution. If your team members can’t find a solution to the issue, you will need to facilitate the solution with their participation. The workplace can become toxic if the manager doesn’t step in to help team members resolve their issues.
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable in that people working together eight hours each day will not agree with each other, will find certain styles of communication to be offensive, will feel someone doesn’t listen to them and will have different perspectives than others. All this can happen in one day.
Being knowledgeable about conflict resolution is essential. Conflict happens in organizations, and finding the balance between conflict that creates energy and conflict that breaks down is where you need to focus your attention. It’s part of coaching your team members.
To effectively manage conflict resolution with your team members.
Catch the Conflict Early
As soon as you are aware of the conflict, handle it. Small conflicts are manageable. A significant conflict with a long history behind it is harder to resolve. For example, if an employee’s communication style is hindering the well-being of your team, then make the employee aware of what he or she is doing and how it is creating conflict within the group. Another example, two employees sit next to each other. Some employees talk out loud when they work. It’s a habit they have, though it creates a distraction for the employee who sits next to them.
Don’t avoid the conflict because it seems minor. It’s a perfect time to help an employee become more mindful of his or her performance or behavior. It’s also an ideal time to teach employees how to resolve small conflicts while they are manageable.
Yes, people have their quirks, and you don’t want to make everyone the same. But be aware when quirks are impacting the performance of the individual as well as the team.
Keep in mind that employees watch what you do. If you have a tough time handling conflict, they will lose trust in you. You need to act when handling issues that impact your team quickly.
You may make assumptions about individual’s performance or behavior without taking the time to listen thoroughly, which can exacerbate the issue. Conflict management is about gathering the information, allowing people to express their views, and have them help define the problem.
Be mindful of people and situations around you. When working within a conflict zone, be sure to take deep breaths. Be aware of your thoughts or any preconceived ideas surrounding the issue(s). By being aware, you can release unnecessary tensions before dealing with conflicts and provide more room for you to step back and listen.
Don’t look for right or wrong, instead find solutions that help both people feel heard with a reasonable solution for both parties.
Find common ideas where the parties can agree; this will create a solid foundation.
Create ways for everyone to brainstorm potential solutions and then come to an agreement as to what actions will work for everyone.
Schedule a follow-up time with the parties to evaluate whether the solution handled the issue or if there are open problems that still exist. Conflict management isn’t a perfect 1-2-3 solution; instead, it’s consistent follow up to ensure the individuals are working on the solutions.
Employees are people with perceptions and beliefs, and no matter what you do to help them, they may go back to the original conflict and continue to escalate their annoyances. What can you do then? It’s when the disciplinary action comes into play. When employees don’t deal with their performance or change their behaviors, it impacts the team and the overall success of the company.
One of the best ways to avoid conflict is to create clear guidelines for appropriate behavior in the workplace.
- Stress the importance of everyone being accountable for his or her performance and actions. Be clear about what accountability looks like so they can emulate it.
- Create a basic rule that there is zero tolerance for disrespect towards others. Disrespect shows up in the workplace through criticizing ideas, a manager yelling at an employee, being sarcastic with a coworker, making jokes about the person behind his or her back and several other behaviors that devalue an employee.
- In the U.S. some laws protect employees from discrimination or sexual harassment. As a manager, you need to be aware of the laws and the legal ramification when you or an employee breaks them. For example, in your role as a manager, you are in the lunchroom, and you hear an employee making fun of an employee because of their race, color, religion, or sex. Your responsibility is to handle that issue immediately. If the individual is not your direct report, go to the manager of that person and have the employee come to discuss the issue. Train your employees on the laws, and don’t assume they know.
- Lots of people are uncomfortable dealing with conflicts, and you need to guide them in recognizing the issues, and that it may be their response to the problem that could be causing the conflict. They will need to be active in resolving the issue. Even if they are willing to work through issues, you may still need to facilitate appropriate solutions to their problems.
Let employees know that you are there to work with them as they deal with any workplace issues that interfere with their performance. It’s their job to resolve it, and you are there to facilitate the resolution.
If you are the only one who comes up with recommendations, then your employees will never take ownership of their problems. Encourage them to be open to finding potential solutions.
Encourage them to share amongst themselves how they have resolved conflicts as this helps others, as well as reduces your need to facilitate conflicts within your team.
How a manager handles conflict also impacts how the team deals with its conflicts.