Conflict in the Workplace and Ways to De-escalate it

Even with the most cohesive teams, occasional conflict is all but inevitable.

Statistics show that 85% of employees experience workplace conflicts. Furthermore, 58% say they’d stay at lower-paying jobs if they get to work with a great boss. This is a testament to how widespread office squabbles can be as well as the importance of resolving them.

By dealing with these conflicts proactively, you’ll be able to maintain a more positive working environment and boost productivity in the process. Let’s take a closer look at a few examples of workplace conflicts and how to handle them!

What is conflict in the workplace?

Conflict in the workplace is basically the problems that both the employees and employers encounter in regard to their work. This arises when personalities, goals, management styles, and work cultures clash; and if not properly handled, it may prevent the organization from achieving its goals and being successful.

Examples of conflicts in the workplace

Misunderstandings, provocative behaviour, poor performance – all contribute to conflicts in the workplace. Let’s take a look at the examples and most common types of workplace conflicts:

Leadership Conflicts

One of the most common conflicts in the workplace is about leadership. It can be about the leadership style, the person itself, or it can be both. Everyone has different styles when it comes to leadership and not all employees react the same to those leadership styles.

For example, your boss may be authoritarian and results-oriented. He/she may be strict to a certain deadline, and once you don’t submit on time, expect that you will be suspended or will be given a verbal warning for it; which may result in low morale and unproductivity. In addition, it may also result in an unpleasant working relationship with your boss.

Another example is when a boss is laid back and has an autocratic and delegative leadership style. Most employees find this okay, but some employees don’t. For them, this means that their boss only wants to delegate his/her specific tasks to another employee resulting in overworking and burnout.

Also, an example of leadership conflict is when there’s a change in leadership in the workplace. Let’s say a boss resigned or was transferred to another department and this person was really good at monitoring and leading his/her employees.

The employees would be familiar with how their former boss likes to do things and now, with the new boss around, they might find it difficult to do things in a new way because they are accustomed to the previous processes inside their department.

Another scenario is the employees’ indifference to the new boss in which they choose to do the old ways instead of the new processes that their current boss is introducing which may result in conflict or employee insubordination.

Performance Issues

Performance issues are conflicts that focus on the standard or quality of a person’s work. In some cases, an employer and an employee may have a disagreement about the standard of the employees’ work.

For example, the employee may see his/herself as productive and providing quality service, but the employer may see the employee’s work as unproductive and in need of improvement. This kind of conflict may arise if there’s no clarity on the standard of the given tasks to the employee.

Another example of this is when the employer knows that this certain employee lacks a specific skill needed for the job, however, the employer still gives the employee the task and expects him to do things right.

Or the employer knows the employee’s limits but refuses to offer training — due to budget constraints — to further improve the quality of the employees’ work. Performance issues may also arise when the employees’ tasks are not properly distributed (overload) which again may result in pending paperwork and unproductivity in the workplace.

Unhealthy Work Culture

Discrimination, bullying, and power-tripping are only some of the examples of unhealthy work culture. These are the issues that have something to do with the organization itself. Some organizations promote work-life balance but there are still few organizations who would rather choose their employees to be working with them 24/7 because of the demand of their business.

One example of unhealthy work culture is no work-life balance. These are the employers that expect the employees to be answering their concerns even after office hours, weekends, and rest days. They have no boundaries when it comes to work and for them, working overtime means productivity.

Another example is power-tripping or office politics. Let’s say there is an employee who is working hard and smart, productive, and has a good personality. It is easy to say that this employee should be promoted once there is a chance.

However, because of office politics, the one that got promoted is the one who has a connection with one of the bosses of the company. This may result in low employee retention or worse, losing the star employees of the organization.

How to handle workplace conflicts

Clarify the source of the conflict

It is impossible to solve workplace conflict (or any kind of conflict) without knowing first where the conflict came from. Identify or clarify first with the team – if the conflict is within the team – or with the person what specifically the problem is all about and how did the conflict begin.

From there, the employer and the employee may both understand where the conflict is coming from, and they both can suggest solutions to their problem.

If the conflict is with another person, the employer may do a one-on-one meeting with the employee for him to feel that his feelings are valid and heard, and also, one-to-one sessions allow the employee to be honest and open to solutions.

If the conflict is within a team or a group of people, it is highly suggested to get a mediator to properly address the conflict or concern of each employee.

Actively Listen

After knowing and clarifying the source of the conflict, it is now time to actively listen to the employee’s and/or employer’s concerns. Actively listening means empathetic listening and understanding the concerns of both parties to properly find a solution to the conflict.

This is very important as most of the time, employers listen to the employees not to understand them, but to have a response/counter their concerns.

By actively listening, employers can truly understand what the employee is actually going through – their experiences, feelings, and what they actually want – and from there, they can offer solutions to properly solve the problem and prevent it from happening in the future.

Have a Conflict Management Strategy

Aside from knowing the source of the conflict and actively listening to the concerns of the employees, there are some common strategies that are used for conflict management depending on the type of conflict. These are Collaborating, Compromising, Competing, and Accommodating.

Collaboration is achieved by combining the ideas of both parties. The key is to find a solution that works for everyone. Collaboration necessitates a significant time investment that is not feasible. Although a firm operator must labor to establish policies, dealing with office equipment consumes time.

Compromising. In order to set up a solution, either side in the conflict must give up portions of their position. When power is held by the parties, this strategy dominates. It is only achieved when both parties stand to lose something valuable in order to solve the problem.

Competition is a strategy that works like a game, with one side losing while the other wins. On the rivalry, the parties (employer and employee) revert to a conflict management strategy. This method works best in a range of situations. In general, employers benefit from maintaining a plan like layoffs or salary reductions. For example, if the conflict is about an underperforming employee and a performing employee, the employer may then terminate or suspend the underperforming employee depending on their investigation.

Accommodation means giving in to the other parties’ wants in order to solve a conflict. When the other party does not care about the outcome of the conflict, accommodation is the best strategy. One of the famous lines of a person with this conflict management style is, “I can give whatever you want to just solve this problem”. This is most commonly known as the “your wish is my command” conflict style.

Conclusion

As you can see, your team doesn’t have to be burdened by these conflicts. It all comes down to applying the right de-escalation strategies so personal disagreements don’t spiral out of control and jeopardize company performance.

That’s all for now, stay safe, and don’t forget to count to 10 before throwing a laptop at your boss like a frisbee.

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