Whenever people interact, there is potential for conflict. It’s our nature; we are all unique individuals with our own thoughts and opinions. It is inevitable that you see conflict between team members in the workplace, and it is your job as manager to mediate these situations with care and professionalism. Your team’s success depends on your ability to help your team work through conflict to find a solution and achieve your collective goals.
One of the most crucial skills in dealing with team conflict is recognizing the issue occurring in the first place. It’s obvious there is a conflict when team members yell at each other, but most conflicts are subtler. The only way to be aware of more indirect conflicts is to pay attention to your employees. Listen when they bring a complaint to you. Observe them in meetings—does one employee always talk over others or interrupt? Is everyone’s opinion heard and valued? Recognizing conflict is the first step to solving the issue before they become bigger problems.
Create a Solid Culture
Each person on your team has unique views and values—and that’s a good thing. However, it can also create conflict. As your team’s manager, you must work to create a culture that celebrates everyone on your team while at the same time enforcing personal accountability. At meetings, encourage team members to be respectful of each other by not interrupting or being dismissive of another’s ideas. Evaluate every idea seriously and come to a group consensus about going forward.
The culture you create needs to emphasize clear and concise communication between all team members. Miscommunication can lead to disputes and worsen conflict that already exists. Clear communication between team members, especially when there is a disagreement, benefits everyone involved.
Remember, You Are Not Exempt
As a manager, you are far from exempt from conflict. Your role puts you directly in the line of fire, so to speak, and you must be aware of that position as you navigate your day. Encourage employees to be open and honest with you about your work, and do the same for them. The culture you create can help employees have a healthy relationship with management and reduce conflict.
Focus on Resolution
When you experience conflict within your team, make dealing with that dispute a top priority. Your actions will depend largely on the situation, so respond appropriately and avoid overreacting. Encourage the individuals involved to have a conversation away from the rest of the team and if that does not resolve the conflict, your involvement is required. Conflicts may need as little as a quick email to solve, or they may require as much as hands-on, in-person mediation. Ideally, have a quick face-to-face meeting with each party, either separately or together, to reach a resolution. Remember to keep team members from playing the blame game with each other. Instead, encourage each party to respect the other and accept responsibility for their part of the problem.
Conflicts are a natural part of working in a team, but they may not be a negative thing. Conflicts can help teams discover existing issues, come up with innovative solutions to problems, and can ultimately strengthen trust and respect within the team. However, to reap these positive benefits, conflicts must find resolution.