Learning how to effectively and efficiently resolve conflict is one of the most important skills for a leader, and a manager. The work place is representative of a stand alone universe in itself. In which case, it is only obvious that it will have people from diverse backgrounds, with diverse goals and objectives in their minds. While diversity is a bonus, it can also lead to making differences more obvious. Which in turn could lead to conflict. Conflict in work place is an unavoidable situation. Imagining the existence of a completely harmonious work place is just an idyllic thought. While conflict is an unavoidable part of the day-to-day functioning at the workplace, there are tried and tested strategies to effectively diffuse conflict, and your role as the manager is crucial towards the methods adopted for resolution of the conflict. Have a look at some of the best and most effective conflict resolution strategies.
Prevention is better than cure. Most conflicts can be predicted, detected and prevented in an early stage. To avoid matters from escalating, watch out for situations which feel like they could blow up into a potential conflict. This is where your experience and acumen as a manager comes in handy. A stitch in time could save the day.
When called upon or intervening to resolve a conflict, it is important to review the matter in an objective manner. Being objective in situations of conflict helps you think clearly, and helps you move towards a fair, efficient and speedy resolution. It is easy to assume one party as the victim, and the other as the perpetrator when things are taken at face value. However, that is where your role as a manager is crucial. Look at the whole matter objectively, taking stock of, and recording facts wherever necessary before making a judgement or pronouncing any decision.
Speaking to the concerned parties at the same time and place while the matter is still fresh, can only cause things to get worse. A process of reconciliation should definitely be initiated, however not at the very outset. Call for a private meeting with both parties concerned and hear them out individually. This will help you get a clearer picture of the issues, and will also function as a cooling period for both parties. In a way, they get to speak what’s on their mind and that in itself is a crucial part of conflict resolution.
Once a conflict goes down the personal route, it is a very sticky and unpleasant situation to recover from. It may be very difficult to stop an escalation in that direction, because the base of no conflict is wholly professional, whereas the base of all conflicts are definitely to some extent ideological. Ideological conflicts in turn, can quickly turn into personal ones. Your intervention as the manager is what stops the conflict from turning into a personal one. As a manager, keep your treatment of the conflict as professional as possible and avert/ reject any personal stabs.
Understanding that conflict is a natural part of the work space is a lesson you will learn over time as a manager. Not every conflict will need your intervention, and it is up to you to choose which ones need your intervention. Allow for a culture where conflicts can be resolved naturally and mutually. That is how it should work for most small-scale conflicts. Knowing just when to step in is a managerial art, one that comes with experience and practice. But having faith that your team can resolve a conflict on its own is also a managerial art.
Being in a leadership position is not easy because there will be situations you will have to deal with, which given a choice you’d choose not to deal with. That is where the challenge of being a good and efficient manager lies. How you deal with these issues affect the environment in the organisation, and the productivity and vibe of your team. Never hesitate to reach out to senior colleagues or mentors for advice on a given situation related to conflict resolution – keeping in mind the confidentiality of the parties involved, of course.
Have a case study or personal experience on effective conflict resolution strategies? This is the right place to put them out! Comments invited.