Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

by Danielle Paterson

I’ve never come across someone who hasn’t encountered workplace conflict in one way or another. How we handle those conflicts can greatly impact our perception of the workplace, as well as our views on managers and colleagues. In this article, I’m diving deep into my top five tips for effectively managing conflict within your organisation. 

We all know that workplaces are made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds, ideas, beliefs, motivations, and desires. While this brings many benefits to the company, it also inevitably leads to conflicts. Although conflict may sometimes seem negative, it can actually be a sign of a healthy work culture. When employees feel safe enough to express their opinions without the fear of conformity, it’s truly amazing. Encouraging employees to speak their minds rather than bottling things up is always the best approach. 

Another advantage of conflict is that it can serve as a tool for growth by challenging the status quo. It allows companies to reflect on their processes, values, and structure. However, if conflict is mismanaged, it can lead to heated exchanges, hurt feelings, and unresolved problems. 

To avoid these negative outcomes, here are five valuable tips for effectively managing conflict in your organisation: 

  1. Don’t let it fester! Have you ever avoided a difficult conversation because it made you uncomfortable? Trust me, I’ve been there too! However, avoiding conflicts often leads to things getting worse, and contrary to our hopes, the issues don’t magically disappear. When conflict is left unaddressed, it can prolong or worsen the problem. This denies employees the chance to improve, damages productivity and efficiency, reduces staff engagement and confidence, and lowers morale. These factors can ultimately result in higher absenteeism or even staff turnover. The longer a conflict festers, the more complicated it becomes. It’s best to deal with conflicts while they’re still small and manageable. 
  1. Understand what causes conflict. To stay on top of conflicts, it’s important to understand their common causes so that you can identify them early. Some typical causes of conflict include personality differences, unmet needs, mismanagement such as understaffing in certain sections, perceived favouritism, competition for unclear roles, and poor communication. 
  1. Build relationships with employees and understand different personality types. Establishing good relationships with your employees, especially based on trust, can significantly enhance their performance. Without a solid relationship, it may be challenging for them to open up or accept your feedback. Take the time to understand each employee’s personality and tailor your communication to meet their individual needs. 
  1. Have a productive conversation with the employees involved. The next step is to have a constructive conversation with the employees involved in the conflict. Make sure to address each employee privately and choose a time when they are in the right headspace. To ensure understanding, use active listening techniques, focus on the behaviour rather than attacking the individual, tailor your approach to match their personality type, and consider the relationship you’ve built with them. 
  1. Decide on actions and follow up. Documentation is key! If the conversation relates to an employee’s performance or conduct, take notes and keep them on file. This will be useful if their negative behaviours persist, as it helps build a case. When concluding the conversation, ensure that you have addressed what needs to change moving forward. Create “action items” for both you and the employees involved to follow through. A few weeks later, meet with the employees to check in on their progress. If issues persist, further action may be necessary. 

At Taipan, we prioritise equipping our leaders with the necessary tools to handle these situations and engage in difficult conversations. We provide specific training courses for all our managers, supervisors, and team leaders in conflict resolution and difficult conversations. Additionally, our Dream Manager, Tianah Ede, is a qualified Myers Briggs trainer who can provide staff with significant insight into personality preferences which then gives us insight into how to understand each other better.  

If you’re interested in discussing any of the above training, advice or want further information for your business, feel free to reach out. We’d love to have a chat and exchange ideas!