Everyone sees the world differently through their own perspectives and experiences, especially when a group is made up of diverse backgrounds. In a work environment, this can create a richness of information that improves problem solving, sparks innovation, and drives better performance.
However, these differences also have the potential to create misunderstanding, and when a lack of communication plays a part, resentment and conflict are highly likely to follow. Furthermore, the pandemic has exacerbated the amount of stress people are facing in many ways – through working from home, feeling isolated from teams, uncertainty about their future both from a financial and personal perspective, having larger workloads, and many more.
This has the potential to make people and the workplace feel slightly more volatile and under pressure. And because people spend a large part of their waking hours in the workplace, this can have a damaging impact on their wellbeing and ability to perform well at work.
With that in mind, if you are a manager, how can you manage employee conflicts in a way that is good for the wellbeing of your teams as well as the overall culture of the organisation?
Speak Individually to Each Party
Have informal one-to-one conversations with each employee that’s been involved in the conflict.
Intently listen to each individual, asking the same questions and remaining impartial. Creating a safe space and letting them know it’s confidential, will help employees to open up about their experience and opinions on the matter.
Open A Collective Dialogue
After hearing everyone’s point of view separately, bring everyone involved together into a discussion, moderated by you to help identify a resolution to the issues raised.
To ensure the discussion is had in a respectful and productive way, begin the discussion by laying some ground rules of communication. I.e. listening without interrupting others, not making personal attacks on character, etc.
Because of the nature of conflict, it’s likely that tensions will rise and people will forget some of those ground rules. This is where you step in with your role of moderator, continually steering the conversation in a calm way that doesn’t make anyone feel threatened or overpowered.
You will also need to help people actively listen to one another and see the other’s perspective. In doing so, you can eventually bring the discussion to a solution-focused point, where the parties share ideas on what can be done moving forward. At this point, you can ask them the following 3 questions.
- What do you want or need?
- What are each of you prepared to commit to?
- When have you previously worked well together?
- What can you take away from those positive experiences and build on?
Get The Wider Perspective
It can often be the case that it’s not just a couple of individuals involved or affected by a conflict, but the whole team. Unless the conflict is confidential or particularly delicate, the team may very well be in a great position to offer a wider perspective and more solutions.
Getting input from your whole team can also help to create a culture where everyone feels safe to share their ideas and concerns. And demonstrates how it can be done in a way that leads to more cohesion rather than conflict.
Remember To Follow Up
Even if the parties may have appeared to reach some sort of resolution during the discussion, it does not mean that there won’t be any residual feelings of resentment or upset at words exchanged in the heat of the moment.
Check in with each team member in another one-to-one conversation at some point following the group discussion to see how they’re doing in the aftermath. It’s also worth getting the team to fill out a survey anonymously, so they can share any residual emotions they’re experiencing as a result of the conflict, that they may not want to share in person.
For information on how Thrive can help you better handle conflicts and create a positive working environment within your team, get in touch.View the Blog