Use these three proven strategies to help employees keep their cool—before tensions get out of control.
Although we might wish otherwise, workplaces aren’t immune to conflict. In fact, when stakes and tensions are high, conflict is practically a guarantee.
Fortunately, arguments, disagreements and even moments of hostility don’t need to derail operations. These three proven conflict resolution strategies can help:
1. Set expectations—and boundaries. A written code of conduct that outlines what is and—more importantly—is not acceptable workplace behavior is a great first step to preventing conflict—or at least catching it before it escalates. This code of conduct should include guidelines for decision-making, clearly outlining the authoritative chain of command. It’s critical that management follows this code, too, in order to reinforce the mindset that the workplace is a collaborative, team-driven environment. It’s also crucial that employees have thorough and clear job descriptions, so they know what is expected of them. Conflicts can arise when people assume responsibilities—or wrongly assume someone else isn’t living up to expectations. Being transparent about job responsibilities can help alleviate some of these issues.
2. Be proactive. Managers should be in tune with their teams. That helps them to discover areas of potential conflict, letting them proactively work to resolve the issue before it escalates. If it’s clear tension is rising around a certain issue, a manager should step in and deliver a fair, logical decision as soon as possible. Acting quickly will help prevent conflicts from growing (or lingering) and will set the stage for open and honest communication going forward. If intervening doesn’t prevent conflict, a leader should act as mediator, listening to all sides, keeping the focus on the problem and not the players and working to help those involved find a solution that works for them. In these situations, it’s important to avoid taking sides which could then create even more conflict.
3. Have a conflict protocol. If a conflict continues or has the potential to negatively impact the rest of the team, it’s important that someone in a leadership role steps in. The person who intervenes should follow a standard set of guidelines to help those involved find a solution. The plan should include setting up a time and place to meet, how to positively direct the conversation if it gets off track, and how to provide guidance rather than assign blame. All parties involved in the conflict should be allowed to express their concerns without interruption, and leaders should to make sure they truly understand what’s being expressed. The practice of repeating what was said back to the speaker is a helpful tactic.
Conflicts are bound to arise. Lessen their occurrence or the damage they do by setting clear expectations of workplace behavior, stepping in when necessary and having a plan in place for mediation. Many organizations turn to Ulliance crisis management consultants every year to help employees overcome challenging situations. Ulliance offers expert, 24/7 support should conflicts arise at your organization. How can we help you? Visit www.ulliance.com, or call 866-648-8326.
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