How to adopt effective conflict management strategies in business?

CoachHub · 21 July 2021 · 6 min read

Conflict between employees is a typical crisis situation in the life of a company. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore it. On the contrary, a poorly managed conflict situation can have severe repercussions for the entire company: poor working atmosphere, demotivation, reduced performance, missing deadlines, absenteeism, turnover, etc. Not to mention the costs associated with managing staff through these issues. Therefore, the solution is to prevent interpersonal tensions first and then adopt good conflict management in the workplace. And that’s exactly what you’ll find out in this article!

Different types of conflicts between colleagues

Conflicts of ideas

This type of conflict often arises when two colleagues work on the same project but have very different ideas about approaching it. However, while this difference of perspective is entirely normal since past professional experiences influence our current perceptions and beliefs, it should not lead to a conflict. Here, the altercation arises from the fact that everyone believes in the infallibility of their opinions and does not take the time to listen to the arguments of their interlocutor.

Conflicts of interest

A person experiences a conflict of interest when one defends his or her interest towards and against all. This type of conflict is therefore widespread between employees, and especially between line managers and their employees. Every individual tries to defend their own interests instead of trying to find a win-win arrangement.

Interpersonal conflicts

These are simply animosity between two people, resulting from a feeling of competition, a past disagreement, or incompatibility of characters (clashing personalities) or differences of opinion.

Authority conflicts

Authority conflicts arise when one person encroaches on another’s missions. Hence the importance of clearly defining each person’s tasks as soon as they take up a position or start a professional project.

Misunderstandings

Misunderstandings are the most frequent relationship conflict but also the easiest to resolve. They result, as the name suggests, from a misinterpretation, a misunderstanding.

How to prevent conflicts in the workplace: types of conflict management

Common values

Stephen R.Covey, a famous American speaker and author, claims in his book of conflict management theory, ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, that shared values ​​play a central role in the company’s life, as it helps in developing collective intelligence. This mission statement then brings together the organization’s values and the values ​​shared by all the company’s employees. This is why it is not only employers or decision-makers who must participate in this work but all the collaborators. Everyone’s engagement process contributes to the result and its proper use.

“When I go to IBM factories for training sessions [sic] I am always amazed. The dignity of each individual, excellence and service is IBM’s credo. […] As if by osmosis, this credo has spread throughout the company and thus provides all employees with a solid foundation: common values ​​and a feeling of security.” – Stephen R. Covey

Trust in management

A true foundation for well-being at work, trust considerably reduces conflict situations between employees. The manager’s role is, therefore, to inspire confidence to promote confidentiality, but also to have confidence in his or her employees. Thus, the manager, through a transformational leadership, must create the necessary conditions and space of trust – change management in action. This includes the right to make mistakes, autonomy, the power of vulnerability, self-confidence… All of these things can be learned in training and business coaching, hence the importance of continuous learning for managers and employees. This work of confidence in oneself and in others opens the door to positive confrontations, far from conflicts, and ultimately organizational transformation. This approach also gives employees the confidence to go to their manager to discuss a problem encountered, and thus offer the manager the opportunity to anticipate latent conflicts and defuse them before they get worse.

Sensory management

Sensory management consists of stimulating the five senses to increase the well-being and motivation of employees and therefore preventing conflict. Therefore, the idea is to enable the sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste of your employees. And if possible as a team, in order to strengthen cohesion.

For sight, therefore, you can choose to paint the walls of the premises with bright colors, colors chosen by the members of the society. Writing positive sentences on the walls is one of the most widely adopted techniques and quite effective in reinforcing and accommodating common values.

For hearing, you know how noise and other nuisances can distract and irritate. This is especially the case in open spaces where we can unwittingly listen to our colleagues’ conversation from A to Z. Not to mention the ringing of the telephone, the tapping of the fingers on the keyboard, the sound of the neighbor’s mouth chewing gum. To avoid conflicts between the one who tries to concentrate and the one who makes noise, it is recommended to favor headphones or earplugs to diffuse the situation.

For the sense of smell, some executives opt for well-chosen scent diffusers.

And for touch, one idea is to do group sports sessions to establish positive relationships. It could be a morning muscle wake-up, a regular yoga workshop or a more sporty activity outdoors during a team-building session. Finally, for the taste, nothing better than having lunch together. In the company canteen or outside, the choice is yours.

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Management of conflicts between employees

Communicate with respect

Communication in business is essential, and even more so in times of conflict. And for good reason, most of the conflicts listed above result from a lack of communication, but also of listening. Because yes, effective communication requires active and attentive listening. As a local manager, your role is to help employees in conflict verbalize their problems and emotions. Thus, everyone speaks to the “I”, which avoids accusations that could add fuel to the fire. The goal is also to create speaking times so that everyone can listen to the other with empathy. The manager, therefore, has a fundamental role of mediator in this conflict management and uses a combination of communication techniques and soft skills to do this. These skills can be acquired through coaching sessions.

Find a resolution together

Conflict resolution necessarily requires a solution that meets the interests and needs of everyone. The ideal would then be to find a win-win solution where everyone is happy. However, Things are rarely that simple. Therefore, it will be necessary either to opt for a compromise where each one revises its requirements downwards or for an imposed solution. In the latter case, the manager makes the decision that seems fairest given the situation. Usually, this involves upsetting one protagonist or both. Obviously, this strategy to get out of the conflict should be used as a last resort.

Preventing and managing these stressful situations can be complicated at times, and there are undoubtedly pros and cons. But we should not try to run from the problem because it is often in these periods that the best ideas are born. To master non-violent communication, to learn to manage conflicts better, to develop confidence in oneself and others or to gain in leadership are part of the soft skills to be developed to cope with tense situations. Getting professional coaching in conflict management also seems to be a good solution.

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