Getting from fear of conflict to embracing conflict in the workplace

If you’re in a leadership position, you need to understand conflict and leadership go hand-in-hand. While conflict is a normal part of any organization, the challenge lies in how you choose to deal with it. If you choose to conceal, avoid or otherwise ignore it, conflict will likely fester, creating resentment, withdrawal or  infighting within an organization.
As a leader, the ability to  recognize conflict, understand its nature, and resolve it, will serve you well. Conversely, the inability to do so could be your downfall.
Let’s take a look at conflict and conflict resolution.
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Sources of conflict
There are many causes for conflict in any work setting. Some of the primary causes are:

  • Poor Communication: different communication styles can lead to misunderstandings managers and employees, and among employees. Lack of communication drives conflict ‘underground’.
  • Different Values: we all see the world differently. Conflict occurs when there is a lack of acceptance and understanding of these different values.
  • Differing Interests: when individual workers ‘fight’ for their personal goals, ignoring organizational goals and organizational well-being, conflict results.
  • Scarce Resources: when employees feel they have to compete for available resources in order to do their job properly, this can lead to conflict, despite awareness of how scarce resources may be. Personality Clashes: all workplaces are made up of different personality types. Unless colleagues understand and accept different approaches to work and problem-solving, conflict is going to occur.
  • Poor Performance: conflict is inevitable when one or more individuals within a work unit are not performing and this is not addressed.

Related Link: 5 Keys To Dealing With Workplace Conflict
Addressing conflict
How is conflict addressed? Here’s some of the ways people face conflict:

  • Avoidance: ‘hide our head in the sand’—hoping  the problem will go away.
  • Collaboration: work together to find a mutually beneficial solution.
  • Compromise: find the middle ground whereby a ‘little is given and little is gotten’.
  • Competing: ‘hoping the best person wins’.
  • Accommodation: surrendering our own needs and wishes to please the other person.

Collaboration or compromise are believed to be the most productive forms of addressing conflict because there are no winners or losers, but working together for the best possible solution.
Conflict resolution help
Resolving conflict is always the goal. How do you achieve conflict resolution? Here are some tips:

  • Clearly articulate the causes of the conflict. Openly acknowledging there will be differing perceptions of the problem(s).
  • Communicate how you want the conflict resolved.
  • Address the issues face-to-face (email, notes and  memos are not a productive way to resolve differences).
  • Stick to the issues. In trying to resolve conflict, while it is tempting to bring up past issues, it’s not helpful. It is important to address behaviors and situations at hand if change is to happen.
  • Take time out if necessary. In the resolution of a conflict, emotions can interfere with arriving at a productive resolution. If this happens, a time-out can be helpful and resume resolving the conflict at another designated time.

Be proactive
While conflict prevention isn’t always possible, the secret to conflict resolution is to prevent it where possible. By seeking out areas of potential conflict and proactively intervening in a just and decisive fashion, you may be able to prevent certain conflicts from arising. If a conflict does flair up, you may be able to minimize its severity by dealing with it quickly. As a leader, time spent identifying and understanding natural tensions will help to avoid unnecessary conflict.
Look for the opportunity
The potential for a tremendous teaching/learning opportunity lies within virtually every conflict . Where there is disagreement, there is an inherent possibility for growth and development. If you’re a leader who doesn’t leverage conflict for team building and leadership development purposes, you’re missing a great opportunity. Differing positions addressed properly can stimulate innovation and learning in many ways.
Smart leaders look for the upside in all differing opinions. Embracing workplace conflict can benefit your organization tremendously.
Simply More offers Workshops for Conflict Resolution

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