Article: How to handle workplace conflicts

Life @ Work

How to handle workplace conflicts

Tackling workplace conflicts is a crucial step towards creating a productive and results-oriented workforce.
How to handle workplace conflicts

An office is replete with people from a variety of backgrounds--be it educational, skillsets or even cultural profiles. In a workplace, each employee brings with her/him their own legacy of values and traits. More importantly, every employee carries a distinct personality that is shaped by the environment in which she or he has been nurtured. This influences their attitude and approach to various societal challenges.

Having a heterogeneous pool of employees can be very challenging. It can pose a serious threat not just to the team morale but can also drain the employee’s mental and physical stamina.

Every workplace is plagued with manipulative people who use emotions to create conflict in order to cover-up for their lack of substance. These are the people who, when confronted with wrongdoings and/or lack of performance, are quick to point the finger in another direction.

Unresolved conflicts often result in loss of productivity, stifling of creativity and creation of barriers to cooperation and collaboration. The most constructive approach is to harmonize these diversities in a way that they nourish each other and generate powerful synergy.

Conflict resolution is a daily occurrence at work that can either propel or disrupt the momentum for a leader, a team or an entire organization. Managing conflicts can be tricky, especially when one is not familiar with how individuals involved in the conflict operate, and how the efforts to resolve such conflicts will reverberate throughout that ecosystem. It is not at all uncommon to see a small issue manifesting itself into a monumental problem.

The environment in a workplace can become toxic when leaders allow conflicts to fester rather than confront them head-on. This is particularly true when managements become active participants in disputes or turn a blind eye to an employee’s unresolved conflicts. It is even worse when one tries to leverage quarrels for business strategies. A toxic workplace is a very costly experience because it  not only discourages creativity but also increases turnover and stress

Putting one’s head in the sand and hoping for the conflict to pass is not the most effective methodology for problem-solving. Disagreements rarely get resolved by themselves . in fact, they normally escalate if not dealt with proactively. Difficult interpersonal workplace problems if not resolved can severely hamper growth.

In the case of individuals, it causes stress and anxiety directly resulting in low productivity. The challenge for leaders is to handle conflicts in ways that subdue toxic impulses and enhance good ones that are generated during these conflicts. The most important traits that a successful leader needs are cold neutrality and a vision to lead all employees towards a common goal by fostering collaboration and unity. Channeling the emotional energies towards a common objective is the most powerful conflict buster in the workplace.

How you think and the way you handle relationships are what decide how well you communicate with your customers and relate to your team. Someone said that much of today’s communications are like scrambled eggs—wholesome but messy. We must learn to be cogent and logical in our communications. I suffered from an irresistible urge to correct not only my own drafts and letters but also those of others, much to the distress of my long-suffering typists whom I must have driven up the wall many times and to whom I shall ever be grateful for their understanding and patience. With a low threshold of tolerance for inefficiency, I confess to being intolerant of slipshod work and insisted on pursuing excellence in tasks which hardly demanded it.

Credible leaders don’t indulge in selective listening – their listening switch is always flipped on. Leadership is about accountability, not blame-shifting. If it is dictated by personal bias it can become dangerously toxic. The workplace is fueled with so many concurrent agendas that one can never know which ones may be affected when conflicts are resolved solely for a selfish motive. True leaders do not encourage favoritism or self-serving behavior.

Trying to avoid confronting conflicts just because it may require uncomfortable decisions making is the best example of myopic thinking. Unfortunately, in their attempts to keep peace at work, leaders often create artificial, untrustworthy environments or silos of employees which are then used as manipulative neutralizers by others. This is what happens when one is more concerned about being well-liked. The best leadership is one which aims to foster an environment where people feel empowered, appreciated, and genuinely happy to be part of the team.

Many workplace problems, if addressed promptly and in a fair manner, need never become disputes at all. They can usually be nipped in the bud by informal discussion, or resolved by low key application of appropriate workplace procedures. Toxic people defy logic. Some are blissfully unaware of the negative impact that they have on those around them, and others seem to derive satisfaction from creating chaos and pushing other people’s buttons. Either way, they create unnecessary complexity, strife, and unnecessary stress.

Developing effective conflict resolution skill sets are an essential component of constructing a sustainable business model. Textbook models can be helpful but they have to customize to one’s organization. Most HR managers fail because they consider the rulebook sacrosanct and become hostages to it. There is always space to tweak the rules within the framework. If the rules could be implemented just as they were, HR managers would be out of their jobs.

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Topics: Life @ Work, #ChangeManagement

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