Managing conflict in the workplace: prevention
Unfortunately, conflict between people is an unavoidable part of working life. It can happen in any workplace and in any industry, no matter how many employees are in the business. It is often a natural consequence of placing a number of people from different backgrounds, with differing personalities, together for periods of time often longer than they would choose to spend with friends and families. Conflict and dispute arise from all sort of situations. They are not necessarily the result of someone being wrong or right – they are rarely black and white. Conflict in the workplace is often due to one or more of these reasons:
If not dealt with properly, conflict can lead to high levels of stress, disrupted work processes, reduced morale and absenteeism. They may even lead to employees leaving or being dismissed which could result in consequential Employment Tribunal intervention.
However, managing conflict successfully enables you to yield positive, constructive outcomes from negative situations and prevent the business or relationships from being irreparably damaged. Not to mention, resolution can solve the knock-on effect with other members of the team. This type of outcome keeps relationships healthy, customers happy, and the business successful.
Signs of conflict in the workplace
Conflict comes in many shapes and sizes. There’s no “one size fits all”. Each business is unique. However, there are often common themes of conflict. Some may be visible such as a heated exchange between colleagues or a meeting between management and employee representatives that turns into a “stand-off”. However, not all forms of conflict are so obvious. Some individuals may prefer to complain behind closed doors to fellow members of staff or bottle up their feelings as a way of coping with a problem. Consequently, a team might react to pressure by cutting itself off from the rest of the organisation or downing tools. Either way, conflict in the workplace is not healthy for anyone. It can even result in other members of staff feeling the stresses and strains if ignored. This impacts on productivity, morale, health and ultimately profitability.
Issues that can cause conflict between individuals and groups at work can also vary but could include:
What is conflict management?
Conflict management is a vital skill that involves identifying and handling confrontations tactfully and constructively. Often, conflict management does not come naturally and some feel extremely uncomfortable about it. However, the best way of overcoming issues in the workplace is to confront them – the sooner the better.
Aims of conflict management
Yield a positive result from disputes and disagreements that occur between people in the workplace
Prevent matters growing and being protracted
Learn from the experience and improve business relationships or service
Resolve the conflict in a way that respects everyone’s wants and needs
Creates tools and skills to prevent the same or similar situations reoccurring in the future
Strategies for managing conflict – “prevention better than cure”
Intervention is effective but time-consuming and costly in some cases. So, preventing conflict, at the outset, eliminates the need to spend valuable resources. Not to mention the consequential damage which often arises. Fortunately, there are numerous types of preventative measures you can use to promote positive relationships and minimise conflict risks.
Effective measures for preventing conflict include:
Training management and staff – provide staff with training and enough resources to fulfil their role, put them on conflict/awareness courses (e.g. equality and diversity) to help them work amicably with others and provide training in conflict management so they can handle
confrontational behaviour appropriately.
Conflict resolution policy – a conflict policy establishes that the company has zero-tolerance for abusive behaviour and will actively tackle confrontations to re-establish cooperation in the workplace. It encourages employees to report concerns and complaints early on so situations don’t escalate.
Workplace changes – a poor workplace layout can cause stress and animosity (e.g. a cramped shop floor, a noisy office, or poor signage) or could put people at risk (i.e. poorly-lit, isolated exits). Reorganise the workplace to reduce or eliminate these issues.
Job role changes – if you identify at an early stage that people are stepping on one another’s toes, discuss changing shifts or job roles with them (you need to ensure it suits their needs). This can also work as a corrective measure if intervention fails.
However, it is not always easy to identify where issues lie. Therefore, hiring an independent objective expert trained in this field to come into the workplace and undertake an initial assessment on your behalf can often help. This can encourage employees to be more open and transparent. Subsequently, it can then help to implement more long term solutions specific to your organisation’s needs.
How we can help with conflict in the workplace
Here at 174 Law, we can help and support you to prevent conflict from escalating. Additionally, we have the solution if a situation has become unmanageable. We have a systematic approach to conflict training and mediation in the workplace and can provide you with the tools and skills to help manage situations in the future. First, we identify your needs. Then, we design and plan training or mediation to meet those needs. And finally, we conduct the training or mediation and assess the effectiveness of the same.
Bear in mind, it is important that each stage is carried out carefully, sympathetically and professionally. This is to ensure we maximise the success of the process and prevent parties becoming a victim of “little knowledge”. This can result in unnecessary expense, incompetence, demotivation and low morale. We can match our methods to your objectives: preparing the parties to be in the right frame of mind, putting employees at ease and building rapport and trust. Essentially, the success of the process is very much dependent upon the parties being ready to engage both physically and mentally. We place great importance on identifying the best time to achieve a positive outcome for this. Maintaining a supportive attitude throughout the process and considering whether either party has just come from a busy and demanding job is also key.
Remember: it is crucial for the parties to own any solutions or positive changes and how this fits into their career or employment plan.
Get in touch today
We have a track record of success and can bring this experience and commitment to your workplace. As a matter of fact, our results speak for themselves. Through our professional approach, we can bring your team back together and implement a positive approach to the workplace. 174 Law can help move your workplace forward at any level be it board, managerial or employees.
For more details about our ‘conflict in the workplace’ services please contact Donna via Donna.Goodwin@174law.co.uk