Conflict is a part of life that a lot of people like to avoid, and those who don’t avoid it typically are not very good at resolving it. In a study by CPP global (2008), they found that 85 percent of employees at all levels of an organization experience conflict at some point during their career. Further, they state that in 2008, $359 billion dollars in paid hours were spent dealing with conflict in the workplace. Due to this large amount of time and money being spent on conflict, we should probably understand how to effectively handle it, so that it can be resolved quickly.
Consider the following scenario:
It’s Friday at 3:00 pm and your employee, Mike, has still not gotten you the final report that is due at 5:00 for one of your clients, so that you can do final edits before you send it off. This is not the first time that Mike has done this. You are fed up and decide to confront Mike. While walking to his office, you realize that you have two options: To use your power ranking and potentially anger Mike, or to work together to find the root of the issue and see what can be done. Although the first option is tempting, you realize that you need your employees on your side, and decide to be effective in your conflict management.
Dealing with Employee Conflict in your Business:
In order to do this, you:
- Strive to be constructive. Just like Mike’s two options, when you are in a conflict, you have two options: A destructive or constructive style. We can choose to be arrogant, uncooperative, and only look to “win” the argument. This style leaves no room for compromise, and often will end in more anger. This style is considered destructive. On the other hand, by choosing to have a constructive conflict management style, you will go into the situation wanting to work things out (Beebe, Beebe, & Ivy, 2006). You are cooperative and do not pull your power ranking, even though you could. This is not a “win-lose” situation, but rather a “win-win” situation by compromising and a willingness to hear the other party’s side. Not only is it a “win-win” situation, more than likely the other party will be willing to be cooperative if you are. In the scenario above, by using a constructive approach, Mike should be more willing to listen to your concerns, rather than getting upset.
- Identify the root of the issue. When dealing with conflict, many times people will treat the smaller issues that result from the main issue, thus leaving the real problems to deal with later. Take for instance, strep throat. When an individual has strep throat they could treat the pain with cough drops or throat spray, however, the pain will keep coming back and eventually the infection will get worse. A doctor will treat strep throat to get rid of the whole infection, which also treats the symptoms as well. Similarly, as a manager, you need to see why Mike is having a difficult time meeting his deadline. Perhaps he has too much on his plate at work. By identifying the root of the issue, you will better understand Mike’s needs and hopefully be able to find a solution so that everyone is happy.
- Understand both parties’ goals in the situation and understand where they match up. When there is a conflict, both parties have goals that they want met. Before you step into a conversation, be sure that you have already identified your own goals. This will help you to better communicate those to the other person/s involved. Once you have identified your goals, ask them to identify theirs. This may seem a trivial task, but it will help you reach step two of identifying the root of the issue. After you have both identified your goals for the situation, discuss them with each other and understand where they overlap. By assessing where the goals overlap, it will become a common ground and will become easier to find a solution to the conflict (Beebe, Beebe, & Ivy, 2016).
- Listen. Although this is the last step on the list, it is the most important. Many times, we think that we are listening and even appear to be listening, but we are not. We are either thinking about something the other person had previously said or thinking about what you should say next (Chastain, 2013). When we do this, we miss a lot of the important words from the other person, along with the emotion behind them. When we actively listen, we will be able to better respond when we need to. Responses should include “I” statements rather than “you.” For example, “I feel…” rather than “you are not getting your work done.” These statements do not place blame on the individual, thus making them more willing to be constructive with you. Further, summarizing their statements will help both of you to better understand emotions and ensure that you are correctly interpreting each other’s statements (Chastain, 2013). This will reduce opportunity for miscommunication and will help to resolve the conflict efficiently and effectively.
See how our scenario plays out after following these steps:
You followed these steps and had a nice conversation with Mike, rather than a heated argument. Learned that Mike feels as though he has been given too much work in too little of a time. And you agree to take some off of his plate. Because you followed the four steps above of being constructive, identifying the root, understanding each other’s goals, and actively listening, you were able to successfully resolve the conflict.
Does Effective Employee Conflict Management Help Online Reputation Management?
YES! With visible reviews on places such as Glassdoor, Yelp, etc, your companies reputation and talent acquisition can be tarnished by ineffective internal employee conflict resolution. While you will not be able to avoid all bad employee reviews as you grow. By training your management and yourself in how to handle potential internal conflicts you can mitigate organizational risk and retain better talent. When we work with businesses with their online reputation management, the first thing we typically evaluate is internal processes that may have lead up to their situation. Bad press (PR) can happen and can be largely be out of your control. However, bad internal processes/ work environment are very much in a business owner’s control. We help fix your public image and make past mistakes less visible.
While this list is not extensive, it does provide great, simple conflict management skills that have been shown to work. It is important to remember that although you can never control the way that someone else acts during a conflict, you CAN control how you act and what you say. By practicing the above steps, you may have a better chance of having an overall constructive conflict and reducing the amount of time you spend dealing with these issues.
Our team’s marketing communications consultant, Kaitlyn, has studied communication for more than 6 years (She has her Masters in it). For more information on conflict/resolution or other communication strategies, feel free to leave a comment in the section below or contact our team. After all, our mission is to make your business better!
Beebe, S. A., Beebe, S. J., & Ivy, D. K. (2016). Communication principles for a lifetime (6th ed.). Pearson Education Inc.
Chastain, A. (2013, December 2). Use active listening skills to effectively deal with conflict. Retrieved from: msue.anr.msu.edu
CPP Global. (2008). Workplace conflict and how businesses can harness it to thrive. Retrieved from: https://shop.cpp.com