Top 17 Conflict Management Skills for Workplace Harmony
Conflicts are one of the stuff that happens in the workplace. This is not out of place sometimes because when handled positively can be a stepping stone to greater achievements in the company.
Managing conflicts is one of the greatest tasks that can be handled by anyone in the workplace.
This is because here you are dealing with human beings who may be out of their minds due to anger and clash of interests. This is what makes the job of a conflict mediator seems difficult.
What is Conflict Management?
Conflict management is the art of resolving conflicts that may arise in the workplace or elsewhere.
Conflict management can also be seen as a way of providing a level ground for people in the workplace to work on without demeaning, debasing, and hurting the interest of individuals in a team.
Conflict management requires the mediator to have certain skills and qualities to be able to achieve maximum results.
This article discusses in details what a mediator ought to know and do to manage conflicts in the workplace and even in other places.
17 Conflict Management Skills and Qualities for Harmony at Workplace
- Provide Guidance, Not Solutions
One way of resolving conflicts in the workplace is by providing guidance rather than solutions.
This may sound absurd because it is believed that everything should be all solutions.
In resolving a conflict in the workplace, try as much as you can to be a guide to the parties involved. This will help them make the right choice rather than depend on you to make the decision for them.
As a mediator in conflict management, you tend to reason with the parties and try to bring them to the point of making them see sense in resolving the conflict by their own wish. Failure to do this might result in them not being satisfied with your opinion.
Remember that in any conflict, the major player is not you because the conflict is not about you. Remember also that their satisfaction is your goal and not to make yourself relevant.
Guide them, advise them, and make sure you stick to your role, which is guidance and nothing more.
2. Set Team Ground Rules
One of the reasons why there will always be constant misunderstanding or conflict is the absence of a standing rule as to how colleagues or members of the team will coordinate themselves in the workplace.
This will cause the workers to do things their way not minding how someone else feels about it.
It is necessary to have rules guiding the conduct of every worker in the workplace; a common rule that is meant to ensure that activities run smoothly and that no one trespasses against a fellow worker.
Human beings without rules are not different from animals in behavior.
So to curb the excesses of human behavior, rules are established. Rules are not set because of one person.
This is to mean that rules are binding on all and sundry in the workplace, else the rules are partial and cannot serve the purpose for which they are made.
3. Encourage Constructive Communication
Nothing makes emotions run high more than bad communication skills during conflict. It is important that as a mediator, let your words be seasoned to be able to manage the conflict on ground and not make matters worse through unguided utterances.
Though you can cite mistakes from the parties involved, yet understand at the moment that the type of criticism needed is a constructive one and not a destructive one as constructive communication can help set a level ground for mediation.
The counterproductive effect of bad or destructive communication includes resignation and prolonging of matters that could have been handled easily.
Constructive communication is important for anyone who is a good mediator in conflict management, so let your communication be constructive and not the other way round.
4. Promote a Culture of Transparency
Promoting a culture of transparency is very powerful in conflict management in the workplace.
This is because, to be able to arrive at a neutral ground, you have to be neutral in your assessment on the cause of the disagreement and allow a culture of fair hearing to both parties.
Transparency here implies that there’s no skeleton in the cupboard during the management of the conflict at hand.
Relate with both parties with the same approach and be plain in your analysis.
When there is transparency in handling of conflict, then there’s a good chance of resolving the issue.
However, handling a conflict without transparency can only escalate the issue. This is true as no one wants to be cheated in anyway. And bias is not to be allowed in conflict management.
To avoid bias, do not consider relationship with any of the parties involved and try as much as you can to be neutral.
5. Watch for Change
Change is one thing that will always remain constant in every facet of life. Change can be the basic cause of conflicts in the workplace.
Some people are more adaptive to change in methodology, which may be offensive to some other people in the workplace.
A change in the mode of operation can cause a major rift in the workplace, especially if one or two people fail to cope with the change.
It is the business of the mediator to find a way to balance the issue and help the parties find a way to strike a good understanding.
Change is something that many people are not comfortable with most of the time. So, in a situation where change is a major cause of conflict in the workplace, there should be a way to solve the problem and help every worker get back to the best relationship they can have.
6. Put Value in Team Culture
The progress of the team is also that of the organization. Teams are formed to help departmentalize an organization to make the labor organized and easy to manage.
So the contribution of every individual matters a lot to the growth and development of the organization.
So, when addressing conflicts in the workplace, the main aim should not to promote individual interest but organizational interest.
If this is not the target, then the aim is totally wrong. Don’t make the conflict resolution to feed the ego of anyone, but that of the total wellbeing of all involved in the team.
It is wrong to squeeze the benefit of the team to feed the ego of anyone. So this culture of team spirit should be inculcated in the team and not the spirit of individualism.
Individualism kills team spirit and cannot be a catalyst for achieving team goals.
7. Clarify Expectations to Avoid Misunderstandings
Expectations are good for achieving goals in the organization. On the other hand, the same expectation can kill a team.
The line between realistic expectations and unrealistic ones is very thin that if not well managed can bring about disagreements in the team.
While it is not bad to have expectations in the team, be sure to make the expectations as simple as possible for the team to understand.
If your team cannot understand your expectations of them, then conflict is the closest thing that will soon face the team.
Don’t expect beyond what your team can do. Learn to carry everyone along as much as possible with you when explaining your expectations of them.
Try not to assume that your explanations are well understood and supported until you hear from the team to what their responses are to the challenges you have laid before them.
8. Listen Without Bias
Listening is a special skill to have as a conflict mediator. Before you enter the business of raising what you might tag solutions, listen from both parties to know what their grievances are.
This is a step in the right direction if your aim of managing conflict is still intact.
It is one thing to listen and another to listen without bias. This is important in conflict management.
Also, when giving both parties opportunity to express themselves, don’t allow bias to come into your listening capacity at that moment.
Remember that the moment you exhibit bias, the whole process will become more difficult.
In conflict management, sentiments are not to be employed if conflicts are to be managed well.
Nobody wants to be cheated; neither does anyone want to be defeated in any circumstance.
So, to achieve the aim of conflict management, bias should not be given any place.
9. Devise and Implement a Conflict Resolution Model for Your Company
One good thing that every conflict manager in an organization should do is to develop and implement a conflict resolution model for the workplace.
As a mediator, you don’t handle issues in the workplace just by what you think at the moment or apply any model you wish to use.
Resolution model for your workplace should provide guidelines as to the processes involved in resolving conflicts in the workplace.
This enhances transparency in the workplace, as well as makes the conflict resolution straightforward and simple.
When a mediator decides to use an unknown conflict resolution model for their company, then the process becomes tedious and time wasting, and can be less effective to achieve the desired purpose.
So to avoid this, let there a well-recognized model made specifically for the company in handling conflict resolutions.
10. Stay Professional
The place of work is a place to stay professional, particularly when it comes to conflict resolution.
For you to be a good mediator in conflict resolution, learn to stay professional.
No matter the relationship that exists between anyone in the workplace prior to the conflict, you must stay professional in your role.
Staying professional will help you do that which is right whether it favors your best friend or your enemy.
Remember it is a workplace and not your house. Do what is required and not what you want or what your friend wants. Business comes first before any other thing in the workplace.
Not being able to stay professional in your job as a mediator will surely lead to failure in your job.
In conflict management, the mediator is not to serve individual interest; rather he/she is to serve the interest of the company, which means you have to stay professional in your job.
11. Embrace Conflict and Approach it Positively
As much as no one delights in being faced with conflicts on a regular occasion, yet it is something that should be expected once in a while.
There must be a clash of interest at one point or the other in the workplace, it should however be embraced with a positive attitude.
Try not to develop negative mindset towards conflicts as a mediator. Sometimes, see the positive aspect of the conflict and make the most out it rather than seeing everything bad with the whole scenario.
Sometimes, a clash of interest might come due to need to do things differently, which may not be accepted by others.
Failure to be positive in your assessment of conflicts in the workplace can definitely lead to bad handling of conflicts.
This is true because our attitude in any given circumstance determines how we react to issues.
If you react badly, you make matters worse, but when there is a positive attitude, the conflict can breed a new idea into how work should be done in the workplace.
12. Take a Break
When tempers are flaring and emotions are boiling over the top, it is time to take a break.
This is important in conflict resolution. Give the two parties minutes or even an hour to think about their actions and what next they should be thinking of doing within the little time given to them to calm down.
Giving a time out is a good practice. It is necessary as this can prevent further flaring up of anger and heated argument.
But when both conflicting parties are not given a timeout, irrational decisions and actions are bound to take place. And this is not good for the company.
However, it should be understood that the timeout should be brief and not take up the whole of working hours.
Every minute and hour in the workplace is important for the growth of the company.
You don’t suspend work because you want to calm issues down. That’s not acceptable, and that’s not being professional in any way.
13. Create a Workplace reconciliatory panel
Many organizations have more of disciplinary panels than reconciliatory panels.
The establishment of workplace reconciliatory panel can help minimize crisis arising from conflicts internally.
This panel should be manned by a group of professionals in the field of conflict management.
Remember that crisis can arise in the workplace if conflicts are not well managed.
It can lead to strained and non-talking relationship, and in some cases physical combat.
This can be minimized to the barest level if there is a panel to handle conflicts of any sort in the workplace.
The role of this panel will be to make sure that conflicts are handled immediately to prevent its escalation.
They make sure that conflicts do not give rise to crisis in the workplace.
A good reconciliatory panel can effectively prevent the company from losing its best people due to conflict.
14. Invest in Conflict Training
Alongside establishing a reconciliatory panel, it is important to invest in conflict training for the staff in the company.
If the ability to resolve conflicts without getting to the notice of the management is inculcated in the minds of the employees, then the workplace will become peaceful.
Conflict management should not be solely the business of the reconciliatory panel.
No matter how they try, if reconciliation is not imbibed by the workers, then it makes the whole process a tedious and difficult one to embark on.
Training employees to manage conflicts without much intervention from the management can be a plus to the company.
However, to achieve this, it is necessary for workers to be trained periodically on conflict management, especially when there is new intake of workers.
15. Meet with Both Parties at the Same Time
To achieve a lasting resolution of conflicts, you need to try to meet with both parties at the same time.
It is necessary as this will give both parties the same platform and opportunity to let out their grievances, which forms the basis of your mediation. Call them to a round table to discuss with both of them.
Don’t discuss the conflict with them individually if you want to find a lasting solution. Get them to a round table and allow them say what they want to say.
With this, you will know how to go about the reconciliation process and the best solution on ground.
One disadvantage of not meeting with the parties at the same time is that either party can end up tarnishing the image of the other just to prove a point, which may not be true.
So when they are brought to a reconciliatory table, this can be avoided to a great extent.
16. Concentrate on Getting to the Root of the Problem
As a mediator, it is also important to try your best to get to the root of the matter before embarking on the reconciliatory process.
Every problem in the workplace has a root, which is something that the mediator should concentrate more on.
Failure to find the root cause of the problem can actually bring about a short-lived solution if there was any.
The strength of a tree is how deep its root is, this is also true for conflicts. So, understanding the root of the conflict can be a veritable tool to knowing how big the conflict is and how possible it is to bring a reliable reconciliation to the table.
Ignoring the root of a conflict is equivalent to not paying attention to the conflict at all, and that’s not something that should be done by anybody in the mode of a conflict mediator.
17. Be Considerate With Your Choice of Words
Words spoken during conflict resolution process can go a long way to determining whether the reconciliatory process is going to be successful or not.
Let your words be seasoned to sooth the flaring emotions and actions.
If your words lack the capacity to calm situations, then you are not a good mediator.
Remember that during conflict situations, there may be incidences where the conflicting parties may say or do things that may be offensive to the other party and not feel they have done something wrong.
At this point, patience is to be exercised in order to achieve the desired goal; trying to match them word for word can only yield a negative result.
If you want to correct them, do so constructively, likewise your criticism.
Do not try to demean, debase, or insult any party. Doing such can be counterproductive and can strain the reconciliatory process.
So, to achieve your aim, choose your words wisely not to exhibit arrogance, sarcasm, insolence, etc. This cannot achieve the desired goal of resolving conflicts.
Conflicts are normal but crisis isn’t. However, to prevent conflicts from transforming into full blown crisis in the workplace, there’s a need to get someone with the skills and qualities shared above to make sure conflicts are resolved within the shortest period of time.
This article has been able to explain the various skills and qualities needed to effectively resolve conflicts in the workplace and elsewhere without demeaning, debasing, and hurting the interest of the conflicting parties.
Conflicts can be resolved to help achieve team goals.