Far from being a dirty word, “conflict” can be an opportunity for company growth, as well as a catalyst for positive change and industrial innovation. Trust me, as a business consultant, I’ve seen A LOT of conflicts; it’s something that every organization has, no matter how big, small, or family-like.
The first thing to do when dealing with conflict in the workplace is to recognize and accept that it does happen everywhere. Don’t be ashamed, and don’t worry that you’re failing as a CEO, HR Director, or department manager: Conflict Happens.
Step One: Dig deep into the issue, not the people.
It’s important to approach every step of this process from a place of constructive understanding. You want to help, and to do that you need to understand what happened. Don’t be surprised when you’re met with defensive resistance from employees—they are retaliating against what they perceive to be an attack on their livelihood. Keep your voice and manner light, encourage them to relax, and don’t accuse anyone of anything.
Try to get to the truth by asking “what if” questions:
- What if we had done things differently? Would the outcome have been better?
- What could we have done differently? What is your recommendation?
- What if we communicated more?
- As a team?
- With our clients?
- What if we changed our process?
- Does this issue occur regularly, and can we fix it with a simple adjustment?
- What if we paused for internal and client feedback at this phase of projects?
Step Two: Listen, be sincere, and remain open to honest feedback.
Oftentimes employees are caught in negative cycles and feel powerless to stop them—in which case they will have A LOT to say on the subject, because nobody has ever listened before. Keep in mind that you’re asking how to improve the company, processes, and products—not pointing fingers or seeking a scapegoat.
Your role in this step is to listen, not to speak, and not to judge. Don’t commit to anything, just hear them out.
Step Three: Communicate clearly.
Most conflict stems from poor, incomplete, or misunderstood communication. Everyone communicates and relates to others differently, so respect the nuances of each employee’s personality. Be patient. Be a good listener.
It’s definitely difficult, and many companies find that they need an outside expert for this step. If your company is struggling to communicate clearly (internally or with clients), then contact Premier Rapport’s Shelley Smith for a Predictive Index (PI)® behavioral assessment test. Learn about the communication and work styles of your employees, managers, and coworkers.
Schedule your Predictive Index test today to learn how to work better, together.
Step Four: Collaborate effectively.
After hearing out all the issues and complaints, gathering feedback, and performing Predictive Index (PI)® behavioral assessments, your employees should be feeling less defensive and more open. Bring everyone to the table to have a true conversation, stop competing against each other, and start working together.
Give everyone a voice. Being valued and respected lowers defenses and fosters camaraderie and constructive discussions.
Conflict is only uncomfortable if you let it be. Take care of issues as they arise and prevent small disagreements from becoming big problems. Shelley Smith can help.