This is an excerpt from the Leadership Daily Advisor’s 12 Tips for Supervisor Leadership Training.
Whenever people gather together, conflict is nearly inevitable. In the workplace, supervisors are on the front line of dealing with conflict among their employees before it can escalate.
Management experts estimate that most supervisors and managers spend as much as a quarter or more of their valuable work time managing conflicts. Workplace conflict may be based on disagreements over procedures, different needs and interests, clashes of personalities, or a range of other situations and circumstances that lead to confrontations between or among employees.
How do you coach your employees to mitigate destructive conflict in the workplace? When workplace conflict is not well managed, it is likely to have a destructive influence. Poorly managed conflict among employees may lead to:
- Reduced productivity
- Lower morale
- Increased absenteeism, as employees seek to avoid a hostile and uncomfortable work environment
- Greater turnover, as workers leave to find jobs in organizations where conflict is well managed
- The “wildfire” effect, with one conflict leading to others and spreading out of control within groups and between departments
- An increased potential for violence
When supervisors and managers know how to resolve workplace conflicts effectively, they can save time and turn potentially destructive situations into positive, productive opportunities for growth and development within their departments and work groups.
Additionally, when supervisors and managers know how to build consensus among employees, they can enhance motivation and cooperation as well as create an atmosphere in which agreement generally prevails over conflict.
“The key to managing conflict isn’t just about pushing them to resolution, but also to learn how to have nicer conflicts,” said Tim Scudder, CEO of Personal Strengths USA and coauthor of Have a Nice Conflict: A Story of Finding Success and Satisfaction in the Most Unlikely Places.
“As one set of conflicts is resolved, others will take their place, so it’s important to learn how to make conflicts productive and positive experiences, instead of allowing them to distract us from our goals and disrupt our lives.”
Scudder’s five keys to prevent conflict include:
Anticipate. Anticipating conflict starts with knowing who you’re dealing with. Then ask yourself how various people might view the same situation. When two or more people see things differently, there is the potential for conflict. If you can figure that out, you have a good shot at steering clear of it.
Prevent. Preventing conflict is really all about the deliberate, appropriate use of behavior in your relationships. A well-chosen behavior on your part can prevent conflict with another person. But you need to prevent conflict in yourself sometimes, too, and that might have more to do with choosing your perceptions than with choosing your behaviors.
Identify. There are three basic approaches in conflict: rising to the challenge, cautiously withdrawing, or wanting to keep the peace. When you can identify these approaches in yourself or in others, you are empowered to handle the situation more productively.
Manage. Managing conflict has two components: managing yourself and managing the relationship. Managing conflict is about creating the conditions and empowering others to manage themselves out of the emotional state of conflict. It is also about managing yourself out. Managing yourself in conflict can be as easy as taking some time to see things differently.
Resolve. To create movement toward resolution, we need to show the other people a path back to feeling good about themselves. When they feel good about themselves, they are less likely to feel threatened and are free to move toward a compromise and resolution.