Key Advice in Dealing with Workplace Conflict

Key Advice in Dealing with Workplace ConflictWith 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.

Be Objective

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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Why Mentorship Shouldn’t Be Underrated

Why Mentorship Shouldn't Be UnderratedWorking with a mentor is a potential way to accelerate your success as a business or career woman. A mentor will support and share with you their own knowledge and expertise, developed through years of being in business, and help you deal with problems you’re likely to encounter along the way. Whether you’re running your own business or looking to further your career, a mentor can definitely be a big help in taking you to the next level.

However, many still play down the value of mentorship, not seeing it as a primary tool to help you achieve more as a professional or as an entrepreneur. This shouldn’t be the case, however. We’ve listed below several reasons why mentorship shouldn’t be underrated and instead be seen as a definite key to success.

A Fresh Perspective

Working with a mentor can provide you with a new perspective on your business or career challenges. If you find yourself sitting on problems and challenges for too long, the new perspective offered by a mentor can prove invaluable. They can act as a sounding board and bring fresh insights from their many years in business. A mentor may also bring new solutions and ideas that you hadn’t previously thought of.

In the words of Thérèse Rein, Australian businesswoman and founder of Ingeus, an employment services provider: “It’s really good to have people who are not in the midst of the idea, who can stand back and ask the ‘have-you-thought-about-this?’ question.” In other words, when you think you’re at a dead end while facing a problem and can’t think of anything else, your mentor could provide the inspiration you need to get over the hump, learning more in the process.

Setting Goals, Done Right

Setting goals can be tricky. You need to aim high enough to achieve the best results possible while ensuring the goals are achievable, too. Set your sights too high, and you risk feeling demotivated when you’re not on target to achieve them. But if they’re not setting goals high enough, you risk not reaching your full potential as a career or businesswoman.

A mentor will have a clear idea of where you can go with your career or business. They will be able to ensure you are being realistic and focused, and they will know exactly when to push you harder.

Access to a Bigger Network

Networking is a vital part of a woman’s career or business plan. Without it, options are limited. If you really want to succeed, you need to get yourself out there and meet more people, especially those who you can learn from or can help you.

However, it takes years to build a solid network. When you work with a mentor, you get to benefit from their hard work as well. Your mentor will be able to identify opportunities for you within their own network, helping you progress faster or solve business or career problems. Not only that, but they will be able to provide the all-important personal introduction to any worthwhile contacts.

This is something Australian entrepreneur, Gen George, stresses. Here’s why she chooses to mentor other businesswomen: “I know first-hand what it’s like to start a business or develop an idea with no technical experience. I guide them in the right path by connecting them to the relevant contacts and advising them on business tips and tricks.”

An Impartial Opinion

Without a mentor, asking for feedback isn’t always easy, and there’s a good chance you won’t get the answers you need. Often, your contacts will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Outsiders, with no industry knowledge or experience.
  2. People with a vested interest in your business or career.

With this in mind, it can be difficult to find opinions you can trust. Here’s where mentorship comes into play. A mentor will be impartial with his or her opinion, and will give it to you straight. No more, no less. If you’re seeking their advice or opinion, they won’t tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear. When you need to make an important decision, a mentor can be relied upon to provide evidence-based opinions that give you the feedback you really need.

Better Control

Through effective mentorship, you’ll know one very important thing in running your career or business: Prioritisation. A mentor will be able to help you realise what you need to prioritise. For example, how much time do you spend working IN your business, instead of ON your business? By asking this and similar questions, your mentor will help you know if you’re prioritising the things that matter, and he or she will guide you in addressing the situation if you do need help.

You’ll then be less susceptible to falling into the trap of “I need to do everything by myself to make sure I succeed,” letting you focus more on being a leader and on the areas that will take your business or career forward.

Guidance Through Failure

Remember, your mentor most likely has more experience than you in your chosen field or industry. That also means that your mentor has encountered problems and failure at some point, and the lessons they learned may prove invaluable to you as well. By imparting this knowledge to you, your mentor will help you avoid the same problems, especially in the early stages of your career or business, or, at the very least, give you the needed insights to solve them.

Sure, you could still go at it alone, and you could achieve success even if you don’t have a mentor. However, given its benefits, you shouldn’t disregard mentorship; the guidance, insights, and lessons it can give you might just be what you need not only to survive but also succeed.

If you’re in need of effective mentorship for your career or business, it’s a wise decision to join organisations that aim to help its members achieve greater heights. Behind Closed Doors offers networking, mentoring, and other tools and resources to help women gain more success in business and in the professional world.


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