8 Tips to Resolve Conflicts in Work Teams
First, it’s important to understand that conflicts are normal and can be healthy for your business. A conflict-free work team is not necessarily a good thing.
Creating a work environment where dissent isn’t frowned upon and where everyone feels safe to disagree with one another - and thereby spark innovation and ingenuity that contributes to the business’ growth - requires a manager who knows how to work around conflicts.
While healthy conflict is not toxic nor damaging to the work culture, unhealthy ones can severely affect the productivity of those employees involved. Or worse, they can even affect all those around them.
Therefore, resolving conflicts in work teams as quickly and as efficiently as possible has a huge impact on running the business successfully.
Knowing how to manage conflicts, especially unhealthy ones, is an understated skill among managers.
Here are 8 strategies to resolve conflicts in work teams:
1. Keep Calm and Embrace Conflict
Being aware of personality clashes is a must in work teams. Management reports indicate that 49% of workplace conflict is attributed to personality clashes.
When conflict occurs, don’t avoid it or pretend nothing has happened. If you do, tension will build as time goes on, and the conflict will only get worse. Dealing with these uncomfortable issues as soon as possible, before problems and bad feelings become embedded in everyday work, is always a good approach.
As a manager, if you notice a conflict brewing between employees, encourage them to talk it through and find a way to work it out. If it’s between two teams, develop ways to improve interdepartmental communication. And if you have a conflict with one of your employees, face it head-on and in private.
And more importantly, being calm can help resolve conflicts in work teams quicker and sooner. Forget about winning. Find a common ground, compromise if needed, and be quick to forgive.
2. Be a Negotiator and Talk Together
When resolving conflicts in work teams, set up a time and place so you can talk for an extended span without outside interruptions. Once you’re all set, give each party adequate time to say what they believe the other party needs to hear.
Never let a single party monopolize the conversation or control the topic. Each person should be able to talk about the way they feel about the situation. Remember to avoid the blame game.
Of course, make every attempt to humanize the situation - a healthy dose of empathy is key. Reflect on how the employees involved are feeling and see things from their perspectives.
As a manager, your role should be to find an agreement and help your employees maintain a working relationship.
3. Don’t get involved in emotional manipulation
Some people are used to getting their own way by using emotions - anger, fear, or upset.
If you have to deal with someone who regularly becomes tearful, tell them that you’re going to give them some breathing space, walk away, and then return at another time.
To solve problems in project teams, use the “stop and cool off” approach. This can help you avoid unnecessary blame-shifting, and in turn help find common ground faster.
This will also help you take a minute to think through the course of action you would like to pursue. Going directly to the source of the conflict rationally - that is, devoid of victim-playing - will gain you a lot more ground in the workplace and will earn your employees’ respect.
4. Listen to Understand
To easily resolve conflicts at work, listen carefully with the intent to understand each side.
This can be done by giving your complete attention to the person who is talking. Make sure you're getting their message, rephrase and repeat back to confirm understanding, and ask clarifying questions if needed.
Listening should always be about gaining understanding - never letting yourself become reactionary to the other person's words.
5. Communicate Respectfully
The Confucian mantra of ‘treating people as you would like to be treated’ is a tactic that never gets outdated in avoiding conflict.
Ask about weekends and thank them for the help they have given you. This will help you maintain positive relationships with others.
When conflict ensues, let everyone voice his or her accounts of what happened and be heard. As a manager, allowing each of your team members to explain and elucidate his or her stance will prevent miscommunication.
If possible, let them rationalize their opinions to give them the chance to bring more agreement and understanding from other team members.
Also, asking the right questions brings massive importance to conflict resolution at work. This is because, sometimes, the way you phrase your questions may make the person feel slighted or accused. So you should try to make the questions more matter-of-fact and well-argued.
6. Find Positive Agreement
Even when you are giving negative feedback to the person involved, try to include positive feedback too. Use the sandwich approach by accentuating the positives and finding other commonalities that you may be able to leverage.
When resolving conflicts in work teams, you may find that your conversation primarily focuses on the disagreements. But pointing out a common ground is the only possible way to achieve resolution. This can be done by shedding light on commonalities.
Remind your employees to always be quick to forgive. And that you’re always there to help resolve every conflict in a way that takes into account the feelings of all parties involved.
7. Highlight Helpful Aspects of The Process
As a manager, you often find yourself resolving conflicts in teams. Once you do, never take sides, ever. You are there to help your employees work out their problems., not betting on which party wins.
This means that you might need to guide the conversation. When you see that emotions are running too high, find a way to redirect the topic, so your employees return to the real problem.
If you're in a position to give advice on steps moving forward, highlight the good aspects of the process and suggest doable actions they can work through after the session.
8. Celebrate as a Team
Acknowledging specific contributions from members of the group can go a long way to maintaining a good working relationship.
This will make them feel good and appreciated for the work they put in toward finding a solution to make team collaboration a success. It doesn’t even have to be a grandeur celebration - even as small as a congratulatory message or an afternoon off as a reward can work wonders in promoting team bonding.
Remember, constructive conflict can bring a team closer together only if managed properly. Respect and appreciation of your team or coworkers’ differences is key to building a strong team.
Resolve problems in project teams at the very instance when they occur and remain open to differing beliefs and ideas in the team. When you learn to view conflicts from the perspective of those involved, you will become a more effective manager and a conflict negotiator.