Learn how to address conflict in the workplace with three simple approaches.
Conflict in the workplace could lead to serious problems. Its lowest impact is often on your team's productivity, but more severe risks include lower morale, higher turnover and possible legal actions against the company.
Effective conflict resolution is a key component of effective leadership and management. But with the onset of a global pandemic in 2020, many teams found themselves working remotely. The work-from-home experience came with its own challenges, including finding a productive workspace in the home, managing noise, troubleshooting technical issues, and more. The rise of these new issues only compounded old ones, including handling conflicts.
Whether you work remotely or in the newly introduced hybrid work model, the following three tips could help you improve conflict — perhaps before it begins!
One of the best ways to address conflict is to get in front of it early. One factor leading to increased conflicts among remote teams is the general, impersonal nature of working remotely. The lack of being physically present can sometimes lead to decreased empathy toward others. While working in person at the workplace, there is a general level and expectation of professionalism extended to people. If it doesn't exist in writing — it can be challenging to assume what's appreciated or appropriate in either environment.
When in doubt, ask your manager or human resource team what company expectations exist and where you can access them in writing to ensure you can address any conflict that arises thoughtfully and with compassion. If the organization you work for doesn't have an existing policy or direction, ask for clarity or request a town hall meeting where all team members can review what's appropriate as a group.
Major conflicts are often the result of several smaller things building up. During "regular" work conditions, it's easy to miss or even ignore small problems, like someone who consistently shows up to meetings late or often misses deliverables. Addressing small problems could help you avoid more significant workplace conflicts.
If you notice a behaviour negatively impacting your work, approach your manager to seek a solution in a timely and effective manner. It's also important to note that some folks in the workplace could be experiencing something personal that impacts their work. Bringing disruptions like late meeting arrivals to a manager's attention could open a conversation with a colleague they wouldn't have otherwise sought out. We can never know what someone else is travelling with or how it could impact their day.
Positive engagement with team members is essential for fostering better relationships. Making the most of team projects by taking the initiative to get the team moving and motivated could improve communication and potentially open the door to effectively managing difficult conversations when and if conflict does occur.
When it comes to company culture and events, participation can help grow relationships between team members. Company downtime and events can create a space where folks can get to know each other outside the regular grind. Work socials aren’t mandatory when held outside of work hours, but it could be worth stopping by to say “hi” to everyone to create space for more meaningful conversations and connections at work.
Handling conflicts remotely or within the hybrid work model is challenging for any team. Remember that communication and empathy are the keys to success when facing difficult conversations or workplace conflicts. Address concerns early while consistently working together as a team to produce positive engagement and conversations.