With leadership comes the challenge of dealing with conflict. As a businesswoman or manager, it’s important to deal with conflict resolution the right way. The 2016 Snapshot of the Australian Workplace authored by Dr Lindsay McMillan OAM tells us that half of all Australian workers have experienced one or more conflicts of a serious nature in the workplace. Of the total number of employees who participated in the study, 16% personally experienced conflict with a co-worker, and 20% had major problems communicating with a colleague.
You can’t escape dealing with conflict if you’re in a business or professional setting, especially if you’re in a position of authority and/or leadership. You have to learn to identify conflicts in the workplace, understand their nature, and take steps to resolve disagreements in a timely manner so you can avoid loss of productivity, encourage a fair and positive working environment, and help prevent future conflicts from happening or escalating.
Dealing with Workplace Conflict for Career and Businesswomen
In today’s dynamic workplace environment where the pressure to deliver and finish tasks on time and in-budget is high, misunderstandings are bound to happen. Studies reveal that men and women differ in certain ways when it comes to perceiving and managing workplace conflicts. For example, lower-level female managers are more keen to collaborate and less willing to avoid conflict at home than at work. Meanwhile, male managers, in general, are less likely to compromise at home than at work. The way leaders handle conflict resolution is important because the end result could either have a positive or negative impact on a company’s overall performance.
As a career or businesswoman, it’s important to be aware of the effective conflict resolution strategies that exist. You could use these to turn conflicts into opportunities for growth, creativity, and improving professional relationships and communication in the workplace. We’ve put together a list of conflict resolutions tips that will help you create order out of chaos even in the most toxic of environments.
Act in a Timely Manner
As a leader, one of the things you should not do is ignore major conflicts or wait too long before resolving them. If you fail to take charge during times of adversity, disputing team members could have heated arguments and engage in manipulative, self-serving behaviours that won’t benefit anyone. Conflicts amongst team members could also result in low employee morale and high dissatisfaction rates.
Unresolved conflicts only fester over time, affecting professional communications and relationships negatively. According to the Australian Disputes Centre, the costs of workplace conflicts to an organisation are high. An article published by the Centre suggests that ‘bullying complaints’ have risen significantly over the years. These complaints have big financial implications because they result in higher absenteeism rates, work accident/error rates, and staff turnover rates. Businesses also have to consider ‘opportunity costs’ associated with conflict resolution and the importance of the time spent on resolving workplace issues that could have otherwise been spent on driving productivity.
Hear All Sides First
As a leader or businesswoman, you will have to know how and when to intervene and achieve positive outcomes in often emotive situations. When approaching conflict situations, find out whether the disputing employees have discussed the matter and tried to resolve it between themselves. If they tried but couldn’t reach a consensus, you could set up a meeting to hear both sides before taking any steps to resolve the issue. You have to act as an intermediary between the two parties. Your role is to ensure that no one is being condescending, manipulative, or using unacceptable language during the conflict resolution process.
Hearing all sides first lets you dig deeper into the situation and know better what it’s all about. This enables you to determine strategies and steps that consider the points, issues, and suggestions of all parties involved, allowing you to be a step closer to a resolution that benefits all.
Identify the core issues that lie at the heart of the conflict. Evaluate all the details of the conflict and try to come up with a solution that will benefit both parties as well as the organisation. Document a plan of action once both parties have come to a consensus. You must make sure all team members fully understand what needs to be done and track actions so the same conflict doesn’t happen again.
Being objective also allows you to make decisions not based on emotions and biases but rather on facts. Thus, it enables you to have a clearer perspective and understanding of what has happened and what needs to be done to resolve the issue.
Don’t Let Personal Biases or Relationships Get in the Way
Your role as a leader requires you to leave biases at the door. Also, avoid playing favourites or getting emotionally or personally involved in the conflict. This way, your judgement won’t be clouded by factors such as personal relationships and will allow you to remain impartial. Beware of subordinates who use emotional deceit to their advantage and ensure that each side has the chance to understand the other’s perspective. This is one of the ways to help disputing team members find common ground.
Remember, when managing workplace conflict, the goal is not necessarily to please. Rather, it’s more about coming up with a solution aimed at resolving the conflict’s core issue, settle misunderstandings and miscommunications if they exist, and address the situation in a way that each party can learn from it. This way you not only manage conflict, you and the parties involved also gain important insights in preventing similar negative situations from happening in the future.
Effective conflict resolution is one of the trademarks of being a true leader and, therefore, is very important for success in the workplace. If you need advice or guidance in this aspect and in your business or career in general, joining organisations and networks that cater to the professional development of women is a great step moving forward.
Behind Closed Doors offers mentorship, networking, and other resources that will help you improve as a leader and be closer to business and professional success while allowing you to guide your employees and peers along the way as well.
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