"Where all think alike, no one thinks very much." - Walter Lippmann
Maybe, but you don’t have the liberty to be at a place where people think less and form an opinion. Today, everywhere you go, you see a workforce that is intelligent, aware, and confident. People think, form opinions, and for once, are not scared of voicing them. That’s liberation for you and liberation is good. It ensures better returns and fresher insights. However, like coins, even liberation has a flip side, that is conflict. When people think different, and are empowered enough to act on their instincts, situations arise. When everyone speaks and nobody listens, situations arise again. When there is a mismatch in resource allocation, situations show up again. And these situations do not go unnoticed. Neither do they go unaddressed. However, ways of addressing them differ and this paves way for further situations. All these situations are conflicts. They can be constructive when optimally addressed and propelled or else, nothing can break a team as quickly as the good-old conflict.
Conflict Resolution In The Workplace
Understand The Situation
Not every workplace conflict will require your intervention. Try to understand the situation if it involves your subordinates and see if it can be managed without you. If the conflict involves you then understand the nature of conflict and see if it actually requires a hands-down approach or can be overlooked.
Acknowledging Is Confronting
Shying away from a conflict does not help in solving it. If after analyzing the situation, you have realised that it requires your intervention then you must acknowledge that there is a problem. This will spread awareness in others as well and you might get valuable suggestions from unexpected sources. However, if the problem has a potential to cause uproar or tension among others in the workplace then the acknowledgement should be restricted to specific people only.
Most of the conflicts arise when people present the same opinions in different words. Listen to all the parties to the conflict patiently and objectively. You’ll be surprised how many conflicts can be resolved simply by this method.
Maintain Professionalism & Team Spirit
If after listening, you realise that the conflict will take more time to resolve then it becomes imperial to ensure that the conflicting parties maintain discipline and professionalism till a decision is taken. The superiors may have to intervene and explain each party the importance of maintaining team spirit despite differences.
Focus On The Problem
You must focus on the problem and all the possible solutions to it. It is also a good idea to take the opinions of the conflicting parties while looking for a solution. Sometimes the parties tend to realise the futility of their conflict when they run out of solutions to suggest. Alternatively, however, you have to be objective while looking at the problem so that you can come up with an unbiased and logical solution.
Communication is the key to solve conflicts. Make sure you encourage healthy dialogue at your workplace. Once you have shortlisted some solutions to the conflict, you can call the involved parties and discuss the plan of action. Do not forget to enlighten them to the fact that their conflict is causing discomfort to a lot of other people indirectly and stress on a mutually accepted solution.
If the mutual agreement of the parties is unattainable then you have to put your foot down and take a decisive call. Once you have taken time to gather information, talked to all the parties involved, and reviewed all the circumstances, make your decision and act. Don’t leave the issue in limbo. Remember, decision delayed is decision denied. Taking too long to make a decision could damage your credibility and their perception of you. Everyone may not agree with your decision, but at least they will know where you stand.