We cannot avoid conflict, it is a part of life and we will all face it in domestic and in business situations.
Conflict is not necessarily damaging. It can lead to a greater sense of urgency, resolution of difficult issues, agreement on the way forward and an avoidance of complacency. Often this can be characterised as managed conflict, where there is a process in place to exchange views without those views becoming personal or damaging one or more parties to the conflict. So we should not attempt to eliminate conflict from the workplace.
Conflict that is damaging occurs where there is a lasting, negative impact on parties. This damaging conflict can contribute to stress, absenteeism, low productivity, low morale and productivity and high staff turnover, amongst other things. It can also lead to allegations of discrimination, stress and bullying which can, if not properly handled, lead to tribunal claims.
A survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development in2007 estimated that average organisations spent 350 days a year in management time, managing discipline and grievance cases, and that the average cost of employment tribunal claims was £20k. Only 38% of organisations provided training for managers in managing conflict.
Ten tips for identifying, avoiding and dealing with conflict:
1. Management style is the number one cause of stress and conflict at work
2. Show positive management behaviours: – People focus, personal integrity, visibility, promoting standards for performance and improvement, challenging the status quo.
3. Establish and communicate procedures for conflict resolution
4. Where conflict has occurred, intervene quickly and deal with it head-on.
5. Demonstrate that issues are taken seriously, acknowledge where feelings are hurt, investigate thoroughly and report back
6. Follow up after resolution
7. If the conflict involves you, calm down. Don’t act in the heat of the moment but arrange a later time to discuss with the other party. Tune into your feelings. Use ‘I’ statements not ‘You’
8. Show a willingness to sort things out. State your point of view in a neutral tone and remember you have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion.
9. If it is impossible to reach agreement with the other party, accept that it is possible to have a differing point of view which is honestly held.
10. If the conflict is deep-rooted, have a discussion with a neutral person present. Ask each party to give an honest and neutral summary of what they believe is the other party’s beliefs and motives. This is an NLP technique which promotes greater understanding and acceptance
If certain members of staff are constantly involved in difficult relationship issues, where perhaps they have a particularly abraisive or demanding style, use a coaching intervention to encourage greater self-awareness and more positive behaviour.