How to Manage Conflict in the Workplace

“We all experience some form of conflict in the workplace. From someone stealing your bread to discriminatory behaviour, they can affect your employee’s working relationships and productivity. Therefore, it is important to keep on top of any issues that occur in your business and work to prevent them from happening in the first place. We at OfficeChairsUK understand the importance of having a peaceful work environment so have compiled a variety of strategies that you can implement in the office to ensure a civil working environment as possible.

Preventative Measures
In order to be able to prevent conflict, you must first understand some of the main reasons for it. Whilst disagreements in the workplace can originate from many different places, one of the main origins is a lack of communication. This can be due to poor information, lack of information and misinformation. Preventing these forms of communication from happening regularly is a good way to begin to reduce the number of disagreements in the workplace overall. However, ensuring good communication practice isn’t the only way to prevent conflict. Here are a few other actions to consider implementing:
An Acceptable Behaviour Framework
Create a guide for making decisions that all employees are aware of. This should encourage good business practice when it comes to group work, as well as clearly defining job descriptions, meaning people know what is expected of them and there is no confusion. Furthermore, create a conflict risk assessment to detail how the conflict should be dealt with. Finally, include a statement on what is and is not acceptable behaviour within the workplace.
Staff Training
Ensure your staff get all relevant training and resources needed to be able to complete their tasks to a high standard. Also, provide training on diversity and equality to your employees can work well together as well as conflict management courses.
Open Door Policy
Make sure that your staff are aware that your door is always open for them to talk to you about issues they might be experiencing. You might also want to consider having a request form available for them to easily request anything that might make their job easier. If you feel like people will still shy away from bringing their issues to you, consider setting up a staff council, if your company is big enough, to ensure that there is somewhere staff feel they can turn to when issues arise.

When Conflict Arises
Of course, with all of the preventative measures in the world, conflict will arise. No matter the issue, they must be dealt with promptly, in a positive manner, to stop it escalating. As a manager, try to keep an eye out for any potential areas of conflict in order to try and deter them before they occur, or at least intervene as early as possible to stop them becoming worse. Below is a 4-stage plan to deal with issues, with each stage for a progressively worse problem.
1-      Have a quiet word
Try and have a quiet word with each person involved so they are aware of what’s going on. Sometimes all that is needed is a quiet word to make them aware of the result of an action for them to change their ways, avoiding the need for a formal meeting – they may not have realised the negative effect an action of theirs had caused.
2-      Organise a Meeting Between those involved
Let those involved each have their chance to say what they want to say. Try and meet in a neutral location, such as the cafeteria or a local café, and allow each person time to speak without being interrupted. Try to deter arguments from taking place and make sure to stay neutral yourself. Encourage them to talk about the event(s) instead of about the person, by saying ‘when this happened’ over ‘when you did this’. When they are finished, paraphrase what has been discussed to make sure they fully understand what the other person is feeling, and their reasons for their behaviour. Then have then come to a decision as to what they should do moving forward. Ideally, this should be with minimum intervention from you, as they are more likely to follow it if they come up with the solution themselves. Finish by organising a future meeting to check-in and see what progress has been made.
It is important during these meetings that you stay impartial, supportive, and listen actively, asking questions with no pre-conceived ideas, to ensure the correct decision is made going forward.
3-      Mediation and Conciliation
Organise for a trained mediator or conciliator to encourage discussion between your conflicting employees in a controlled environment. The difference between the two is that whilst with a Mediator the employees come to a decision on how to move forward themselves, the conciliator has the final say on how the issue will be resolved.
4-      Arbitration
Should you need to, you can bring in more legally binding actions moving forward. An Arbitrator is given both sides of the evidence and each side of the conflict may have a lawyer. The arbitrator creates a legally-binding decision that all parties will have agreed to.

Whilst conflicts are often seen as a negative experience, we hope this advice will help make solving them a smooth experience. When dealing with problems in the workplace, be sure to view them as a positive experience. They can often be a great learning opportunity, and differing positions, if addressed properly, can lead to innovative ideas being conceived. “