If you manage a team then it’s inevitable that at some point conflict will arise between colleages. If you are new to management and have not had much experience, then being responsible for managing conflict can seem a daunting prospect. In today’s blog we will point you in the right direction when it comes to dealing with conflict resolution.
Understanding what can cause conflict in work?
There are many issues that can lead to tensions within teams such as :
- Poor management
- Unfair treatment
- Unclear job roles
- Inadequate training
- Poor communications
- Lack of equal opportunities
- Different personalities
- Bullying and harassment
- Poor work environment
A study by Forbes shows the reasons for the most common work retaliation tactics.
- Left out of decision making
- Cold Shoulder
- Verbal abuse
- Potential job loss
- No promotion or raise
- Hours and pay cuts
- Relocated or reassignment
- Online abuse
- Harm to personal property
Understanding the situation by gathering knowledge
The first step to take when issues of conflict arise within your team is to find out as much as possible about the situation. Identify who’s involved, what it’s all about and why. Try and get to the route cause, is it over a specific topic or task? Is it a lack of communication or personality clash? Once you have clarified people’s position and have an awareness of the facts, beliefs and assumptions then you are in a much better position to do something about it.
When conflict emerges within work emotions tend to run high, and once emotionally charged it’s difficult to detach ourselves from our feelings and make logical well informed decisions. If it’s an issue between two people then it’s best to talk to them each privately and get their individual perspectives before bringing them together. It’s important that all the people you are managing feel respected, heard and supported. By listening to what each one has to say and making them feel heard and understood then you are half way to resolving the conflict and managing their emotions. For more information on individual mind management read ‘Don’t Be a Chimp’.
Understand different styles of response to conflict
Every one responds differently to conflict and when managing a team in relation to this is can be useful to know how the individuals on your team respond in order to help manage and support people’s needs. Thomas and Kilman model points to 5 different styles when responding to conflict.
Competing is assertive and uncooperative—an individual pursues his own concerns at the other person's expense. This is a power-oriented mode in which you use whatever power seems appropriate to win your own position—your ability to argue, your rank, or economic sanctions. Competing means "standing up for your rights," defending a position which you believe is correct, or simply trying to win.
Accommodating is unassertive and cooperative—the complete opposite of competing. When accommodating, the individual neglects his own concerns to satisfy the concerns of the other person; there is an element of self-sacrifice in this mode. Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, obeying another person's order when you would prefer not to, or yielding to another's point of view.
Avoiding is unassertive and uncooperative—the person neither pursues his own concerns nor those of the other individual. Thus he does not deal with the conflict. Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue until a better time, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.
Collaborating is both assertive and cooperative—the complete opposite of avoiding. Collaborating involves an attempt to work with others to find some solution that fully satisfies their concerns. It means digging into an issue to pinpoint the underlying needs and wants of the two individuals. Collaborating between two persons might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other's insights or trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.
Compromising is moderate in both assertiveness and cooperativeness. The objective is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties. It falls intermediate between competing and accommodating. Compromising gives up more than competing but less than accommodating. Likewise, it addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but does not explore it in as much depth as collaborating. In some situations, compromising might mean splitting the difference between the two positions, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle-ground solution.
Taking action to resolve the conflict
How you manage conflict may depend on a number of factors like whether it’s between individuals or groups. In a group situation often it’s best to have a group discussion and mediate between them until there is a compromise. Or if the issue is still not resolved this way and involves actions then having a democratic vote could be useful.
In many cases of confrontation the issue is often lack of communication and therefore sitting individuals down together, and ensuring they both communicate their perspectives to one another in a calm and rational manner is often the best way of dealing with it. As a manger it is your job to be assertive and manage the conflict but in a non-aggressive and impartial manner. If people are reluctant to speak then ask questions to get them talking. For example:
- Can you say why you are feeling frustrated?
- Is that the way it usually happens?
- Can you say more about that?
- What would make you feel better about the situation?
- What would you like to happen?
Often wrong assumptions are made by one person or party to another and it’s important that these are understood and resolved. Try to identify when people are communicating a truth or making an assumption and be sure to flag this up with the other person to clear the air.
Whether you are managing a conflict between individuals or groups the same rules apply:
- Let everyone have their say – ensure each person has a chance to speak
- Listen to everyone – ensure that everyone feels understood and respected
- Remain impartial – do not take sides or encourage office gossip
- Negotiate – suggest actions that could resolve the conflict
- Come to a win - win agreement – a deal that satisfies both sides