Even if employees continue to work from home due to the pandemic, they can still clash with their colleagues. They may disagree with one another because of differences in their working styles, personalities, or ideas. Conflicts may also arise during collaborative work when someone fails to do their part on time, thus holding back the ones who rely on that part. Regardless of the cause, staff disputes need to be resolved properly. Otherwise, these may snowball into bigger issues such as declining productivity or an increasingly toxic work environment.
In this blog, we’ll discuss six tips to help you manage team conflicts effectively.
1. Learn to detect early signs of conflict
Signs of tensions among workers can be subtle, but you can spot these by observing their interactions. Here are things you should look out for:
- Facial expressions (e.g., raised eyebrows, eye rolling)
- Body language (e.g., crossed arms, clenched fists, pointing fingers)
- Tone of voice and way of speaking (e.g., raised voice, mocking or dismissive manner)
You’ll find it easier to pick up on these cues as you get to know your employees better. The sooner you detect these signs, the sooner you can address conflicts and prevent these from escalating.
2. Don’t take sides
Since you are in a leadership position, you must act neutral and objective. After all, your role is not to pass judgment, but rather to help opposing parties reach a fair resolution.
3. Speak to both parties individually before bringing them together
Hearing both sides of the story will help you carefully assess the situation. Start by having a one-on-one with each employee. Reassure them that the discussion is confidential so that they can open up to you comfortably. Avoid making assumptions by actively listening to them. It’s best to ask both parties the same set of questions to help you remain impartial.
Once you have a better understanding of everyone’s perspectives, schedule a meeting where you can act as moderator for all parties involved.
4. Establish ground rules before starting the discussion
When people are in disagreement, they may be hostile to each other. This is why you should set some ground rules before the conversation begins, such as:
- When speaking, use a calm and non-threatening tone.
- When the other person is talking, refrain from interrupting them or making side comments.
- Practice active listening to be able to understand where the other person is coming from.
- Focus on the facts and do not attack the other person’s character.
- Be respectful of each other’s viewpoints.
Should anyone break the rules, step in and politely remind them of these. For example, if someone tries to speak out of turn, ask them to wait until the other person has finished before inviting their comment.
If the discussion becomes heated, take a break and reconvene when everyone has calmed down.
5. Allow both parties to express their emotions and perspectives
People are likely to feel angry or hurt when they are in conflict situations. These emotions need to be expressed — in a healthy manner — and acknowledged before any kind of problem solving can take place. This is why you should begin by letting everyone say what they feel and what they want to tell the other person.
Afterwards, give everyone enough time to present their own views on the situation and to respond to any criticism. Don’t let anyone dominate the conversation. If more reserved employees stay quiet, keep your questions directed at them.
You may need to guide the conversation and redirect it back to the real issue, especially if emotions run high.
6. Discover the underlying needs of both parties and find a solution that satisfy these
The goal of conflict resolution is not to decide who is right or wrong but to find a solution that everyone can agree on. Start by encouraging each person to suggest a solution, then try to understand how their respective proposals are advantageous to them. By doing so, you’ll be able to unearth their individual needs, which are key to generating a win-win solution.
Afterwards, brainstorm alternative solutions that now factor in everyone’s needs. Once they reach a compromise, determine the actions each person will take and hold them accountable to these. It’s best to schedule a follow up meeting to ensure that everyone sticks to their respective commitments.
Final note: Team conflicts should be resolved, not avoided
Properly resolving team disputes is important, but it doesn’t mean that you should aim for zero conflicts. After all, having arguments is inevitable and at times healthy. Work environments where people feel safe to disagree with one another can foster company growth and innovation.
Whether your staff are back at the office or working remotely, reduce conflicts by providing them with technologies they need to work smarter and more in sync with one another. Learn more about these IT solutions in our FREE eBook.
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