Types of Conflict in the Workplace & Conflict Management Strategies
Ask any middle manager or human resource manager about the most taxing part of their job. The answer is most likely to be resolving conflicts between subordinates. But we have seen that managers don't have any effective conflict management strategies, or in some cases, no system in the first place.
Most managers have tend to avoid conflicts. Their usual agreement is that it is not a part of their job. Well, guess what? Suppose conflicts can result in a decrease in productivity. In that case, it is your job to identify and have a strategy to handle workplace conflicts.
You may have countless measures to eliminate conflict from the roots. You may have a great and happy team, but conflict is likely to creep up, eventually.
Before going any further, let's look at a few basics.
What is Conflict Management?
In a nutshell, conflict management identifies and resolves disagreements between two or more stakeholders. The ultimate aim is to weed out factors that might contribute to a conflict in the first place.
In a successful conflict management campaign, all the parties leave a conflict with some level of satisfaction with the decision or outcome.
But before going overboard with any strategy, it is essential to understand the kind of issues you are dealing with.
Here are some ways of identifying the kind of conflict situations that can occur in your workplace.
1. Clash of the Titans
One of the most troublesome scenes in an organization is a conflict in leadership. When you have multiple disciplines in your organization, a competition among the leaders is imminent with its middle managers.
It becomes challenging to deal with conflicts that involve a clash of egos. Responding to disputes of such nature becomes complicated, and it becomes difficult to reach a middle ground. It creates confusion and a massive drop in productivity.
Small businesses where the roles of the middle managers are much more pivotal experience a more significant deal of setback due to such conflicts.
2. We are Interdependent, aren’t we?
In an organization, no team is entirely isolated. Every team has to work with each other for the ultimate goals of the organization. They are increasing the value of the shareholder's assets.
Every once a while, a conflict between personnel of different organizations can take place. From the operations team, John can be frustrated with Tim, the software developer, for not solving a customer's technical issue quickly enough.
This kind of conflict indicates that employees face issues of accountability in the organization.
3. My style is my style; none of your style.
It will be no surprise if we tell you that employees have different working styles even in very conventional industries.
Some like to work in a team, and others prefer being a lone wolf. Some people like to work for long durations with balanced energy; others (someone like me) want to work with periodic bursts of intense energy.
Clashes happen when different styles of people tend to work together. It is essential to conduct proper training and understanding employees' working styles to minimize these kinds of conflicts. This will help you reduce conflicts due to personality clashes.
4. Your personality is unique, just like everybody else
This is the most common kind of conflict in the workplace. Clashes due to personality types occur when a perception about the personality of an employee is harbored. If a person is known for cracking jokes, they are perceived as somewhat less focused than the rest of the flock. This can reflect their views not being held to the same ideal as the rest of the team. Suddenly the jolly guy transforms into a confrontation maniac.
It's challenging to handle conflicts of these types because of their nature. Leaders and managers are hesitant to enter a personal dispute. Since workplaces now focus more on diversity, more personality clashes are likely to happen. Appropriately tacking gives your company the experience to deal with long-term issues of different types of conflict in the workplace.
Different types of conflict management strategies
Since we now have a decent idea of the types of conflict in the workplace, let's look at different strategies for handling conflict in the workplace.
1. Private Resolution
One of the worst things to do during personal conflict is to carry out the conflict resolution publicly. As a team leader, it is your responsibility to shield your team members from conflict. Also, addressing conflict tends to take a chip on the shoulders of the stakeholders.
Private sessions allow all stakeholders to address their point of view. Privately tackling conflict also gives you time to think regarding the proper middle ground. It also prevents bystanders from giving meaningless feedbacks.
2. Active listening during a conflict
One of the most common complaints during a conflict is that resolving the conflict is not an active listener. They often give suggestions to resolve a dispute without listening to the entire story.
Active listening is fantastic art that will solve conflict and deal with everyday work more efficiently.
It is easier to give proper feedback on an issue if you are an active listener. When you actively listen to the points of all the parties, it gives the impression that you are considerate of all the stakeholders, and your judgment will carry more weight.
While this might not be a viral strategy to dissolve conflicts, but it's an effective one. A little reminder- it has a few adverse outcomes depending on its usage.
Being accommodating means, one party gives way or compromises on an issue to dissolve conflict. This method can be used when there is a significant difference between the seniorities of the stakeholders. Juniors can give way to senior employees to resolve a conflict.
It's usually an excellent way to dissolve a conflict when one party realizes its fault. But it somewhat loses its purpose when accommodating is done to ensure peace. This results in complacency in the other group.
Going overboard with this method can result in an assertive party getting its way—every time. Soon a win-win situation ends up as nothing but losses for the company.
4. Collaborative effort
This is somewhat similar to finding a middle ground during a conflict, but with some differences.
In a collaborative effort, the aim is to find a solution from which everyone feels somewhat content.
Wait, isn't this the same approach as meeting in the middle ground? Not so much. The difference is that both teams might have to compromise on the outcome in a middle-ground process.
The satisfaction in the middle ground approach is that the opposite party is not getting their desired outcome from the conflict. In a collaborative process, the parties are satisfied because they came out of the conflict with something to hold onto.
In a middle-ground approach, all the stakeholders might have to settle for an all-out "loss for all" outcome. A collaborative effort ensures a win-win outcome for everyone.
This approach has multiple benefits. First of all, the stakeholders come out of the conflict with some amount of satisfaction. This ensures that there is no loss in productivity due to the nagging after-effects of the conflict.
And, of course, reaching a happy conclusion is a difficult task. This will ensure that all the stakeholders will have to collaborate to some extent. In this way, all the parties get the perspective of all the stakeholders. Since every party is involved in the resolution, the problem-solving ability of the group is tested in this strategy.
This approach is helpful when the conflict is somewhat more severe, and multiple perspectives need to be addressed. This helps in looking at all the critical issues that the conflict might affect. Also, this strategy often demands a lot of time, so it's not a very optimum strategy when you are running low on time and resources.
What if, in the conflict, one of the parties has crossed the line? In such a case, the manager or even the other stakeholders need to be dominant and display a competitive attitude.
This conflict resolution style is usually stepping right in or pushing the "correct" perspective until the conflict is resolved. These types of conflict in the workplace can take a toll on harmony and productivity. If you don't make swift and stern decisions during these kinds of conflicts, then your subordinates will likely see you as an incompetent or weak leader. It takes experience and guts to confront.
Also, these kinds of conflict management strategies are helpful when you need to push a decision in a short duration of time and also to prevent a wrong conclusion from being made.
It's one thing to read about conflict management and another actually to hold your nerves during a conflict. Probably the essential quality is the experience. Since every individual is different, it's difficult to assign a specific type of strategy. With experience, you will be able to tweak and adjust different strategies for different personnel.
When different types of conflicts occur, you will be exposed to different scenarios and be forced to make quick on the feet decision.