10 Ways to manage workplace conflicts

with

The Workplace

Workplace conflicts can arise from various sources, and understanding these types can help you navigate them more effectively.

In this article, we will delve into the key aspects of managing workplace threats, from their common forms to strategies for mitigation and the utilisation of innovative tools like MICARES (Motivation, Importance, Certainty, Autonomy, Relationships, Equity and Shared Values) to enhance workplace safety.

 

Conflict resolution is not about avoiding disagreements, but about transforming them into "intellectual friction" - opportunities for sharing, learning, growth, and innovation. Leaders who can navigate disagreements with humble inquiry are best equipped to sustain organisational resilience.

Conflict Resolution Styles

There are several styles for approaching conflict, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. Here are our six most common conflict resolution styles:

  1. Collaboration:

    • Description: Collaboration involves working together to find a mutually acceptable solution that satisfies the interests of all parties involved.
    • Example: Two team members who disagree on the approach to a project collaborate to develop a compromise that integrates both of their ideas.
    • Workplace Scenario: In a marketing team, two colleagues have differing opinions on the design for an upcoming campaign. Instead of arguing, they collaborate to combine elements of both designs, resulting in a stronger final product.
    • Benefits: Promotes creativity and innovation, strengthens relationships, and generates buy-in from all parties.
    • Drawbacks: Requires time and effort to reach consensus, may be challenging if parties have conflicting goals or values.

 

2.  Compromise:

    • Description: Compromise involves each party giving up something to reach a middle ground that partially satisfies everyone’s interests.
    • Example: Two managers who have different budget priorities compromise by allocating funds to both of their departments, albeit in reduced amounts.
    • Workplace Scenario: In negotiations between two departments over resource allocation, each side agrees to make concessions to reach a compromise that allows both departments to meet their needs.
    • Benefits: Facilitates a quick resolution, preserves relationships, and allows progress to continue.
    • Drawbacks: May result in solutions that do not fully address each party’s interests, can lead to resentment or dissatisfaction if compromises are perceived as unfair.

 

3.  Accommodation:

    • Description: Accommodation involves one party yielding to the other’s preferences or interests to maintain harmony or preserve the relationship.
    • Example: An employee agrees to work overtime to cover for a coworker who needs to leave early, even though it inconveniences them.
    • Workplace Scenario: In a team meeting, a team member defers to their colleague’s suggestion, even though they have reservations about it, to avoid conflict.
    • Benefits: Promotes goodwill and harmony, avoids escalation of conflict, and maintains relationships.
    • Drawbacks: May result in one party feeling taken advantage of or resentful, can lead to unmet needs or unresolved issues.

 

4.  Competing:

    • Description: Competing involves pursuing one’s own interests at the expense of others, often using assertive and aggressive tactics to win.
    • Example: A manager insists on implementing their preferred strategy for a project without considering input from team members.
    • Workplace Scenario: In a negotiation, a sales representative adopts a competitive stance, focusing solely on achieving their own goals and disregarding the concerns of the other party.
    • Benefits: Can lead to quick decision-making, assertiveness in pursuing one’s interests, and clarity in roles and responsibilities.
    • Drawbacks: May damage relationships, create resentment, and result in win-lose outcomes where one party feels marginalized or exploited.

 

5.  Avoidance:

    • Description: Avoidance involves ignoring or postponing the conflict, hoping it will resolve itself or go away without direct confrontation.
    • Example: A team leader postpones addressing a disagreement between team members, hoping it will resolve on its own.
    • Workplace Scenario: A manager avoids discussing performance issues with a team member, fearing confrontation and potential conflict.
    • Benefits: Prevents immediate escalation of conflict, preserves relationships in the short term, and allows time for emotions to cool down.
    • Drawbacks: Can lead to unresolved issues festering over time, erosion of trust, and missed opportunities for growth or improvement.

 

6.  Cooperating:

    • Description: Cooperating involves cooperation at an “attendance and face value” but does not quite reach collaborative because “personal accountability and ownership” is missing. 
  1. Example: Two teams are asked to work on a project together and whilst many meetings occur nothing ever seems to move forward. Time and attendance are given but not ownership nor practivity. This is often confused with collaboration but is often the reason for little innovation and project/change progress.
  2. Benefits: There is open dialogue and exchanging and sharing of information. 
  3. Drawbacks: Can be timewasting if someone does not accept the accountability and ownership. Becomes a phase of never ending meetings with no outcomes.

10 Ways to manage workplace conflicts

There is great value in managing conflict by facilitating intellectual friction the value of diverse perspectives and constructive debate in driving innovation and breakthroughs. It highlights how engaging in intellectual friction can lead to deeper understanding, creativity, and progress.

  1. Promote Open Communication:

    • Encourage employees to communicate openly and respectfully with each other, sharing their perspectives and concerns without fear of judgment or reprisal.
    • Example: Implement regular team meetings or open-door policies where employees can discuss issues openly and transparently.
    •  
  2. Foster a Culture of Respect and Empathy:

    • Emphasise the importance of respecting diverse viewpoints and understanding others’ perspectives through active listening and empathy.
    • Example: Conduct training sessions on communication skills and empathy-building exercises for employees and managers.
    •  
  3. Establish Clear Expectations and Goals:

    • Set clear expectations and goals for projects and team objectives to minimise misunderstandings and conflicts arising from differing priorities.
    • Example: Develop project charters or team agreements outlining roles, responsibilities, and objectives.
    •  
  4. Encourage Collaboration and Teamwork:

    • Foster a collaborative work environment where employees are encouraged to work together towards common goals and share resources and expertise.
    • Example: Implement cross-functional teams or collaborative projects that require employees from different departments to work together.
    •  
  5. Provide Conflict Resolution Training:

    • Offer training programs or workshops on conflict resolution skills, teaching employees effective communication, negotiation, and problem-solving techniques.
    • Example: Bring in external facilitators or consultants to conduct conflict resolution workshops for employees and managers.
    •  
  6. Facilitate Mediation and Facilitated Dialogue:

    • Provide mediation services or facilitated dialogue sessions to help parties in conflict work through their differences and find mutually acceptable solutions.
    • Example: Assign a trained mediator or facilitator to mediate conflicts between employees or teams and guide them towards resolution.
    •  
  7. Encourage Constructive Feedback:

    • Create a culture where feedback is given and received constructively, focusing on behaviors and actions rather than personal attributes.
    • Example: Implement a feedback culture where employees regularly provide feedback to each other and receive training on giving and receiving feedback effectively.
    •  
  8. Focus on Shared Interests and Common Goals:

    • Encourage parties in conflict to identify shared interests and common goals that they can work towards collaboratively, rather than focusing on individual differences.
    • Example: Facilitate a brainstorming session where conflicting parties identify common objectives and explore ways to achieve them together.
    •  
  9. Implement Conflict Resolution Processes:

    • Develop formal conflict resolution processes or procedures that provide a framework for addressing conflicts in a fair, consistent, and timely manner.
    • Example: Create a conflict resolution committee or designate a conflict resolution officer responsible for handling workplace conflicts.
    •  
  10. Celebrate Collaboration and Team Achievements:

    • Recognise and celebrate instances of collaboration and teamwork, highlighting the positive outcomes that result from working together effectively.
    • Example: Establish an employee recognition program that rewards individuals and teams for demonstrating collaboration and achieving collective goals.

“Conflict is inevitable, but its resolution is not. Successful organizations are those that embrace conflict as a means to uncovering new ideas, improving processes, and strengthening relationships.” 

– Stephen Covey

Using MICARES for perspective taking

One of the tools we use with clients is the MICARES framework.  This is a simple to use framework that allows a quick guide into how to communicate, propose, influence in a way that promotes a “reward” rather than a “risk” response in group settings.

Motivation & Mastery– if we understand the “real” motivations behind people’s participation it will help us address those needs. With mastery we all want to achieve “our very best” how can we help people achieve mastery in their role. Combining these two Ms means we can really start to build relationships and the intelligence we need to engage and thrive as a collaborative team member, a brand, an organisation, a leader.

Importance – people like to feel valued for the skills and contributions. They may like to be “liked” and be seen as instrumental in a project. 

Certainty – we hear about this a lot but people want certainty over the things that matter to them most (motivation). The detail matters, the assurances and the guides and frameworks.

Autonomy – some of us want to be empowered to make an impact, use our skillset and work without constant supervision or rules. It is about providing freedom and choice.

Relationships – our relationships are important at work – to have someone you trust. But importantly understanding the relationships at home and the impact on work life is also helpful. Some are driven by relationships, connections and a high level of trust – a sense of belonging and community is always strong in this area.

Equity – many value equity and equality and social justice. They are often advocates the allies at work. Fairness is important and clarity around the processes, accountability frameworks is really important.

Shared Values – others care more about the alignment of values. Great dissonance is caused that impacts on mental wellbeing when we are forced to behave in ways that are contrary to our beliefs, upbringing. 

Understanding the way people respond to issues can assist you craft your messages clearer. This tool can be used for consumers, clients, stakeholders, employees, team work, individual awareness and in critical impacts such as meetings, performance appraisals, onboarding new people, change management strategies.

Key Takeaways:

  • Intellectual friction can lead to deeper understanding, creativity, and progress.
  • Remember that conflict is a natural part of working with diverse teams, but how you approach and resolve it matters. 
  • Effective communication, empathy, and a willingness to find common ground are essential for maintaining a positive work environment

“Neuroscience is the foundation for the approach we bring to every engagement, and it provides a means for consistently making informed decisions that accelerate organisational performance and well-being”.  Carolyn Grant

Interested in Learning More?

Book a briefing on psychological safety today. Mitigate your greatest risk and drive high performing, thriving teams.