On Leadership: Five strategies to avoid workplace conflict
Although some conflict in the workplace can be healthy, the impact of unresolved conflict can negatively impact individuals, teams, and the culture of businesses. This can lead to decreased productivity which can adversely impact the bottom line....
Although some conflict in the workplace can be healthy, the impact of unresolved conflict can negatively impact individuals, teams, and the culture of businesses. This can lead to decreased productivity which can adversely impact the bottom line. The following strategies can establish a strong foundation for your workplace so conflict can be avoided.
1. Establish Clear Roles and Scope of Responsibilities
Often conflict arises when one employee perceives that another employee is encroaching on their responsibilities. Or, when one employee thinks another employee should be doing something that is not part of their job. As a leader it is important to establish written job descriptions with a scope of responsibilities that are up to date and clear.
2. Develop Team Working Agreements
Team working agreements are ground rules where all employees agree upon and hold each other accountable. As an agenda item in a team meeting, have members discuss the behaviors they feel are important for the team. Then have everyone agree to follow these agreements as their "Code of Conduct". Keep the agreements visible when meetings are held and post them in common areas so employees can easily review them.
3. Train Employees How to Manage Conflict and Give and Receive Feedback
Most people have not been trained in the basic skills of managing conflict and giving and receiving feedback. When they are equipped with conflict resolution and feedback skills they are more apt to resolve their own problems. They will be able to work together more effectively because they can navigate their own disagreements. This will save the leader time as they will have fewer conflicts to manage.
4. Implement Ways to Strengthen Interpersonal Relationships
When people get to know each other, they understand each other better. Team activities help strengthen relationships, improve communication and create a more cohesive, productive work environment. Here are some ways to strengthen employee relationships:
-Include an ice breaker in meetings
-Sponsor a charitable event
-Pair employees in mentoring and buddy relationships
-Include "On a Positive Note" segments in team meetings, during which employees report something good that is happening in their work or personal lives
5. Utilize Personality Style Assessments
Differences in personalities can lead to conflicts and affect team performance. Identifying and discussing differences in personality traits of team members can open doors to understanding. Once employees take the self-assessment, meet to talk about similarities and differences among team members. Create a dialog regarding how to work with those that have different styles. This contributes to improved collaboration and decreased conflict. The more popular assessments include Meyers Briggs Type Indicator, DiSC, and Clifton StrengthsFinder.
It is unlikely that conflict will disappear, but these strategies will go a long way in preventing it from occurring in the first place.
Pam Solberg-Tapper, president of Coach for Success Inc., is a Duluth-based executive coach, professional speaker and adventure marathoner. For questions or to submit questions or ideas for future columns, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 218-729-0772.