Overcoming Conflicts at work

Conflicts are an inevitable part of work life. They arise due to poor communication of management decisions/policies, insufficient resources, role/job clashes, etc. Conflicts hinder productivity and affect confidence levels of the people involved. But if handled effectively, they can aid in raising and addressing problems, help sort out issues and motivate employees to recognize and benefit from their differences.

Conflicts can be of various types: intra-individual, interpersonal, group or even inter-organizational. Therefore, conflict resolution skills are essential since choosing the appropriate technique to solve/prevent disagreements is half the battle won.

Conflicts Management:

Conflicts can be resolved by discussing the causes, learning the facts and settling them by applying rules, regulations and policies. Managers can play a key role in minimizing dissonance at work by regularly reviewing job descriptions, building a rapport with subordinates, maintaining reports on issues and accomplishments, effective planning and ensuring that employees are trained appropriately.

Here is a list of some probable ways of resolving conflicts:

Intra-individual conflicts: Identify the conflict, write it down, list down solutions, select an action and implement it.

Interpersonal conflicts: Admit the conflict, discuss it with the other person, listen to each other accurately and rephrase the issue. Avoid the blame game. Ask open-ended questions, acknowledge places where you agree and disagree, work out the issue, focus on actions, and conclude the matter by thanking the person for working with you. If you are unable to find a solution among yourselves, seek help from a third party.

Group conflicts: Most of the departments in an organization compete over authority, resource allocation etc., thereby sowing the seeds of inter-group conflicts. To prevent such differences ensure clarity in communication, distribute resources uniformly and divide authority/expertise equally. In advertising there are daily conflicts between the creative and client servicing departments. In that case the manager has to take into account the conflicting interests of both departments and arrive at a solution, which neither adversely affects the quality of work nor the client’s expectations.

Organizational conflicts: If you get a chance to get involved in resolving conflicts between organizations, you could consider one of these strategies:
* Use conciliation by involving an impartial third party who will convey offers for settlement from one party to the other.
* Get an impartial mediator who will facilitate communication and understanding between disputed parties through their own solutions and form an agreement.
* If both parties are willing to initiate communication, try to negotiate effectively.
* Involve an empowered arbitrator to render a final and binding decision based on facts put forward by the parties in full settlement of issues presented during a hearing.

Resolve conflicts: There is no one best way to deal with frictions. Based on the situation, you could perhaps consider one of these five options:
* Competing: Use this style when you want to take quick, decisive action, protect yourself from the challenger or when you know you are right. You can compete with rival firms to get prestigious contracts.
* Collaborating: Apply this when you have to find an integrative solution for vital concerns that cannot be compromised upon. This is a good option when you need insights of other people or when you have to reach a consensus decision. Managers and team members can collaborate on handling more tasks in case of additional projects.
* Compromising: Utilize this method when the goal is to get past issues and move on. This is most effective when opponents with equal power are pursuing mutually exclusive goals. For example, two employees wanted to attend a program with a limited budget. You may suggest a compromise like splitting the money and letting the employees share the expenses or have them look for a program with a lower or no fee.
* Avoiding: Exercise this technique when an issue is trivial or when you perceive no chance of satisfying your concerns like changing someone’s personality or to reduce tensions. For example, some employees choose to keep quiet when their colleagues are discussing office politics.
* Accommodating: Employ this method when the issue is important to the other person by satisfying his/her needs, when continued competition can lead to unnecessary damage or while aiding subordinates in managerial development by allowing them to learn from their mistakes. Use this approach occasionally, especially in situations where you have another potential upcoming approach.