It’s happened to the best of us. We get into an argument at work due to unresolved conflict, an offense taken, or a slight. Arguing is never productive and can cause teamwork to crumble. A 2008 study commissioned by CPP Inc found that U.S. employees spent 2.8 hours each week dealing with conflict and in most cases the outcomes are unsatisfactory. That’s approximately a $359 billion drain on companies throughout the U.S.
Not only are excellent conflict resolution skills important for interpersonal relationships, they are a financial necessity. Below are ten tips to help you resolve conflicts rapidly:
#1. Find the source of the conflict. Conflict most commonly comes from five distinct sources. These are:
Unsatisfactory communication or poor communication skills. While it’s possible that there was a simple oversight in the communication system, some people are actually poor communicators. It’s important to identify whether it’s the communication system at fault or if one individual needs to concentrate on his or her communication skills.
Excessive competition for prime working conditions. Business can be extremely competitive. Things like bonuses or the promise of a higher position can cause sabotage and backstabbing among highly competitive individuals.
Mediocre performance. In many groups there is that one person who can’t seem to get it together. They miss deadlines, don’t contribute to the overall goals, or simply have a hard time performing tasks. Cutting someone from a group may be difficult, but if one individual’s performance is stalling everyone else, it may be time to let that person go or put them on a different project.
Differences in values. Sometimes generational differences or differing belief systems can affect the overall work of a team.
Difference in personality. Personality clashes can be tough to deal with. It’s important that your team understands the company policy on conflict resolution before working with each other. This way, if a clash comes about, they can potentially sort it out rapidly without becoming upset or insulting.
#2. Define the leader. When there is a team leader or even the leader of a meeting, conflict goes down drastically. Getting the leader delineated right away can help reduce instances of conflict and help you monitor for potential conflict.
#3. Set up conflict policies. Be prepared for conflict before starting your business or project by creating policies for handling conflict and making sure all team members read them. Having something in place will help you keep from being caught flat-footed when you need to resolve a challenging conflict.
#4. Monitoring for possible conflict. No matter how you slice it, there will be a difference of opinion in any group. Keep an eye and an ear out for potential conflict. You can do this by:
- Checking in with team members.
- Holding a weekly meeting.
- Taking complaints seriously.
- Ask for group input on how to fine-tune things like communication processes.
#5. Explore perspective. Everyone has their own perspective. Asking different team members to look at a project from the perspective of other employees can resolve conflicts and help each team member define what points of the project need to be more transparent.
#6. Radiate calm. There are knotty problems that can cause team members to become upset or angry. Perhaps a deadline has been bumped up or one team member is being tough to work with. Instead of contributing to the anger, take a deep breath and try to listen to what is being said. Even if the emotion being generated is unproductive, it’s possible the angry team member has a point that can be resolved.
#7. Always acknowledge communication. Whether you are working in a collaborative environment or not, be sure to acknowledge communication presented by another before presenting your own. This will allow them to resolve questions they have in the backs of their mind and listen to you better.
#8. Ask questions and make sure you fully understand something before acting. You may have your own opinion about how a project should move forward. However, the team working with you likely has their own perspectives and may have suggestions that can improve the project or project management which you simply hadn’t considered. Be sure you fully understand what those around you are saying before acting. This not only will make them feel heard, it may increase productivity.
#9. Bring up the elephant in the room. If there is an obvious difference in personality or values among team members, bring them up in a non-accusatory way. It’s better to ask individuals what they believe makes them different and how these perceived differences can be used to bolster the team than to accuse someone of being different.
#10. Be willing to let a trouble-maker go. Sometimes one person isn’t pulling his or her weight. Other times it’s that individual who backstabs. No matter how someone is making trouble, you have to be willing to let them go if their actions show that they refuse to resolve the problems they are creating.
We are all different. It may be a belief system, notions about the world, or experiences that make us stand apart from the rest. Instead of this creating friction with those around us, we can use our differences to make a better, more productive team.