As a business leader, you are responsible for many different elements of the workplace culture, taking on various roles in order to keep the business running smoothly. Perhaps one of the most important roles is one that involves conflict resolution. Every leader’s approach to this matter is different, but the end goal is the same — to restore harmony in the workplace.
Here are some useful tips for leaders that may help to avoid workplace conflict.
1. Don’t create a false harmony.
It’s easy for a business leader to avoid confronting obvious tensions in the workplace. This way of creating a false sense of harmony can actually be destructive for the business. Not only is it incredibly frustrating for the employees involved, but it can allow problems to continue without being resolved. There’s no value in brushing issues under the table. If your employees don’t feel as though they can be open and honest with you about their conflicts and disagreements, they’ll stop trying to bring it up.
2. Know when to step in
Timing can be crucial when it comes to nipping problems in the bud. Perhaps you’ve wandered through the office and heard two colleagues arguing about something minor, like an issue about the project they’re collaborating on. It’s a good idea to point out to them at this stage that it’s not worth quarreling over. As you get to know your employees, you will begin to analyze the situation better, knowing when there’s an issue that they’re capable of sorting out themselves, and when something is taking a more serious turn.
3. Be proactive in prevention
It might be that the potential for conflict isn’t between two colleagues. Instead, workplace conflict can also refer to groups of employees or possibly even departments. That’s why it’s important that you set clear expectations from the start. Business leaders need to be actively working to boost communication between different parts of the business.
A good leader will look at the business objectively, recognizing the steps that need to be taken to build a positive relationship between the different departments in the company. Whether this is more team-building exercises or having the offices closer together rather than on separate floors for improved communication, being proactive in prevention is always a good idea.
What’s more, if you do suspect that there may be a brewing issue, you could consider mediation before it gets out of hand. Mediation essentially invites either party to a meeting where they can discuss their thoughts and feelings.
4. Conflict can be an opportunity
It may sound controversial, but conflict can be a great opportunity to help employees reach their full potential. Every conflict is a chance for learning and growth. Each time a conflict arises you should be asking yourself: What larger lessons can be learned from this issue and how can we use this to prevent conflict in the future?
Everybody makes mistakes, and every group of employees are bound to disagree at some point in time. As a business leader, you have the power to help people see another side to their thinking.
Paul Matthews is a Manchester based business and tech writer who writes in order to better inform business owners on how to run a successful business. You can usually find him at the local library or browsing Forbes’ latest pieces.