Conflict at work can either fuel or disrupt the momentum of an organization. When teams are working in a hectic and tense environment, it gives rise to disagreements and unnecessary arguments.

Managing conflict can become challenging, especially for leaders who are not familiar with the intricacies of daily operations and the concerns of the team members involved.

Even a trivial issue can create a ruckus if it is not handled at the right time and in the right manner. It becomes the responsibility of leaders in such crucial times to take effective steps to prevent conflicts.

“A true leader should assess conflict situations correctly and handle them carefully so that healthy team tension doesn’t turn into disruptive chaos.”

Sadly, many leaders prefer to avoid tense situations and insist on maintaining a fake harmonious environment. This helps enhance their popularity in the workplace initially. However, what they do not realize is that this eventually leads to further build-up of negativity and internal disruption amongst team members.

A leader must try to actively neutralize or minimize such difficult situations so that they do not get out of hand. When leaders help resolve conflicts, it strengthens the trust within the team. Employees are then better able to optimize their output and efficiency for the growth of the organization.

How to Deal with Conflict

It is a leader’s responsibility to create and sustain the workplace momentum, engage employees in healthy discussions, and handle conflicts delicately. To help with this process, the following will help:

1. Right Timing

Most conflicts occur due to differences in understanding. Timing is of utmost importance in such situations. A leader should assess these misunderstandings and facilitate a healthy discussion in an open environment to avoid the escalation of the conflict.

It is also essential for leaders to act when there is definite proof of an employee’s track record of wrongdoings that have been adversely affecting the morale of the team.

Employees look up to leaders to intervene and take effective steps. If they know you are aware of their concerns and are not acting upon them, you will lose their trust. Timely action in confronting the issues is a must for every leader. If you hesitate while deciding, your reputation will suffer along with the progress of the organization.

2. Do not Overstep Boundaries

Coaching your team and learning about them is essential while dealing with and resolving conflicts. This will help you understand the limitations and boundaries of your employees. As a leader, you must understand the risks and rewards of conflict resolution without overstepping the boundaries of each employee.

When you know your team members closely and understand their expectations, you can openly communicate with them about their drawbacks in the workplace.

Once you have identified behavioral tendencies that trigger such conflicts, you can create awareness to their behavior sensitively. This can be better accomplished with open interactive sessions where you set precedence and reinforce performance expectations for every team member. This will help them become more aware and actively prevent any conflicts from arising.

3. Respect Differences

Leaders should seldom pull rank and authority while handling conflicts in the workplace. The authoritarian approach to conflict resolution does not resolve anything. Instead, it fuels internal negativity amongst employees.

As a leader, you should respect the unique differences in people and try to understand their individual viewpoints before arriving at any conclusion.

Conflict resolution is not simply black and white. There are grey areas in the workplace that have gained prominence with rising cultural and generational diversity.

As you understand your employees better, you can not only avoid the conflicts but also resolve these conflicts (if they arise) by bringing everyone on the same page through effective open communication. This will help you as a leader retain the trust of teams and enable them to value when guidance is needed during conflicts.

4. Confront the Tension

Leadership is not a popularity contest. As a leader, you will have to confront tension in the workplace and sometimes make decisions that might not be well received. Conflicts give rise to heightened emotions that make the workplace more difficult. That is why it is important to address such situations at the earliest stage before they spiral out of control.

Conflict resolution is quite like other challenging decisions that you make in the organization. You must trust your gut and wisdom to make the right decision. Waiting and hesitating makes things only worse and complicated.

See conflict resolution as an opportunity to enable an open and healthier environment in the workplace.

“A true leader understands that facing difficult situations together with the team strengthens trust and builds authentic relationships.”

Conflict resolution is not only an opportunity for professional growth for employees but also an opportunity to improve the maturity level of your leadership.

Submitted by Patrick Cioffi