Conflicts in the workplace are inevitable. We spend 35% (or more) of our waking hours with our coworkers, and at least some of those hours are stressful ones, so it makes sense that there will be the occasional disagreement, misunderstanding or cumulative frustrations that bubble over. Managers are generally the first line of defense in dealing with these issues, but most of them lack the conflict resolution skills necessary to do so effectively. If that sounds uncomfortably familiar, don’t worry – you’re in good company.
Unfortunately, most managers never receive workplace conflict resolution training. Part of the reason is that we, generally speaking, are uncomfortable talking about or dealing with conflict – and that tends to stem from the myths we (often unconsciously) believe about the subject. But, by avoiding the topic of conflict in the workplace, you lose the opportunity to create conflict resolution strategies that transform team challenges into team strengths.
Myth: Conflict is negative and has no place in the workplace.
Truth: Conflict isn’t inherently negative or positive. It’s the way in which we deal with it that powers the good versus bad connotations. When conflict is ignored or masked, it tends to fester, grow and eventually become an explosive problem – and that’s why we tend to think of it as negative.
Conflict can often be a sign of creativity or innovation. Most people are inherently uncomfortable with change and the uncertainty it brings, so new ideas can spark conflicting emotions. That’s fine! The most successful companies actively embrace and optimize conflict – transforming it into a productive tool for increasing employee engagement, building stronger teams and creating a more innovative environment.
Myth: Difficult people are nearly always the cause of conflict.
Truth: Misaligned expectations are nearly always the cause of conflict. Most often, people are deemed “difficult” because: 1) they aren’t equipped with the skills to effectively communicate their thoughts or needs, or 2) they don’t fulfill their role in the way their managers and coworkers want them to.
This myth is incredibly detrimental because is disempowers business leaders and places blame on a hypothetical other. Instead, recognize that you can help to minimize conflict by strategically setting expectations early on, maintaining open lines of communication and implementing a coaching leadership style.
Myth: The reasons for the conflict are generally obvious.
Truth: The “reasons” for the conflict are generally just symptoms of a larger root issue. Problem-solving is absolutely central to conflict resolution, but you can’t find a solution to a problem if you don’t (first) identify the core issue and (second) understand the details of that issue.
As a business leader, you can help facilitate the process by establishing a neutral playing-field, encouraging involved parties to communicate effectively and helping them to clarify their points of view – so they can get on the same page. In most cases, you should play the role of mediator, not problem-solver.
Learn more about workplace conflict resolution training and other skill-building programs.
At FocalPoint Canada, we guide our clients in overcoming challenges and leveraging opportunities with proven processes and methodologies that have been used by thousands of successful businesses over the past two decades. Our FocalPoint business coaches use their expertise to teach our time-tested methods through individual coaching, group sessions, or trainings and workshops.
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