In high-pressure working environments, it’s inevitable that conflicts will arise from time to time. Although disputes can be extremely disruptive to a business, they also have the potential to be useful in bringing about positive change, provided they’re handled sensibly and professionally. In fact, well-handled disputes can help to maximize teamwork, productivity and collaboration, with these situations often uncovering pressure points within the company. 

Finding an agreeable resolution that suits both parties often involves the intervention of a manager or other senior member of staff. But what can leaders do to bring about a positive outcome, and ensure a conflict between team members doesn’t affect the wider business in the long-term? 

Run conflict resolution training

Before conflicts have even arisen, it’s important to create a positive, healthy culture within the workplace when it comes to problem-solving and disputes. One important aspect of this is giving employees the tools they need to properly handle any conflicts at work through training programs. Although it can be a difficult and potentially awkward topic to navigate, if everyone’s on the same page when it comes to the process of conflict resolution, dealing with disputes suddenly becomes a lot easier. Staff will feel empowered to take control of the situation themselves without having to rely on senior intervention.

Most of the conflicts that arise in the workplace will be over small disagreements that are best resolved without escalating the problem any higher. But, if staff aren’t taught how to properly deal with these situations, they’re more likely to get out of hand and cause unnecessary disruptions. 

Address the problem quickly 

When you let problems fester in the workplace, it’s easy for them to quickly spiral out of control. As soon as an issue is brought to your attention, make sure it’s seen as a priority to address it and deal with it promptly. Unresolved conflicts not only have the potential to impact team morale and productivity, but if they continue over a period of time, concerns over employee retention or engagement may start to become an issue. Being proactive is always in the best interests of the individuals involved and the business as a whole. 

Remain impartial

One key thing to keep in mind as a manager when tackling conflict in the workplace is the importance of staying impartial. Even if it’s the case that you empathize with one person’s point of view more, taking sides has the potential to add fuel to the fire. With this in mind, it’s important to ensure everyone involved feels like they’re given ample opportunity to have their voice heard. Taking all of the different perspectives into account will help you to better understand the root of the problem and bring about the best solution. 

Follow up 

In any walk of life, whenever we encounter a disagreement with somebody, it’s generally in our nature to avoid bringing up the sensitive issue that caused the dispute in the future. And while you wouldn’t want to unnecessarily dig back up any old problems that have since been buried, following up and checking in with the team members involved can actually help to ensure the issues don’t end up resurfacing

While things may appear to be resolved, there could still be some underlying feelings of resentment or ongoing frustrations that could be affecting the team. It’s the responsibility of management staff to make an effort to check in with employees to ensure the dispute isn’t having a lingering impact.  

Understand when to escalate the problem

As a manager, you’re likely to be your team’s first port of call whenever an internal problem arises. Most of the time, minor disagreements can be solved within the team, and wouldn’t need to be escalated any further. But, especially for more serious problems, you must decide when it might be necessary to involve the HR team or other senior members. If you don’t reach a resolution through informal conversations, you will need to follow formal procedures, which often involves liaising with HR. 

Within a business environment, there will always be people you can go to for further support or advice if you aren’t sure on the best way to handle a situation. Conflict resolution should be viewed as a shared responsibility; by working together to bring about a positive outcome, conflicts could help the business to move forward, rather than set it back.

This blog post was written by Gary Talbot.