Managing conflict in the workplace
Every organisation experiences conflict in one form or another, not only in the workplace but in our homes and our social life. Honestly, it's bound to happen with people working and being together with different personalities, values and culture but actually in some situations conflict can be the base for a healthy debate. However, it's not so much the conflict that causes problems and issues, but how it is managed.
Causes of conflict - where does it come from?
Conflict can rise from many different causes including poor communication, unfair treatment, bullying and harassment. Other main causes are personality clashes which can turn into a heated argument, lack of clear objectives and goals, lack of training and something as simple as being moved in the office, not picking up paper around the photo-copier or filling it up when you've used it or not taking turns to get the coffee!
Signs of conflict
We all see some very obvious signs of conflict, poor performance, people angry and upset, or moody and arguing. Other signs could be more difficult to detect such as absence, demotivation, withdrawal from team members. If you spot the signs early enough then you stand a better chance of nipping the problem in the bud before it escalates.
What happens if you ignore it?
Even the smallest conflict if ignored can get out of hand. Someone's issue can fester and grow into an all-consuming problem which may result in parties not speaking to one another, non-physical violence or taking out a Grievance. Conflicts not only cause departmental splits, arguments, missed deadlines and people taking time off due to stress but financial costs to the business as well.
What to do
If conflict is addressed and dealt with, plans and resolutions can be put in place to hopefully resolve the situation. Mediation gives the opportunity for both parties to sit down in a safe and confidential environment to discuss their issues openly and honestly. It is usually our perception of how we see each other's faults, or things that happen around us which normally cause problems. Mediation is facilitated by a mediator who remains impartial and will not judge. It's not a court session, that's not what mediation is about. Often after mediation, people can understand how the other person feels and what their needs are, subsequently most conflicts after mediation are resolved and peace is restored.