Preventing and Managing Conflict at Work

Michelle McGuffog   |   February 3, 2020

The nature of conflict at work is twofold. When conflict occurs and is left unsorted, people will begin to disengage. On the other hand, in the right circumstances, team conflict can be healthy and lead to innovation.

However, if conflict is not dealt with properly, it can erode a team’s culture and unity. A leader is in a unique position of influence and must be curious about where their people are coming from on all sides. A diverse team brings different ideas to the table, which is good for business. Leaders need to find common ground between parties, minimising negativity and helping to build trust across the team.

Here are my tips for implementing a smart conflict management policy at work. 

Have strong leadership 

A leader must be relied on to facilitate trust among employees, and in turn, team performance. Every team member should be treated equally, avoiding favouritism and unhealthy hierarchies. 

Negative conflict can be prevented if individuals feel comfortable openly discussing tensions. If conflict does arise, it’s important for leaders to remain impartial. There are always multiple sides to a story and this must be factored into approaches to conflict resolution. 

Remember that teams will get frustrated if you ignore conflict or let it get out of hand. It’s your job to lead by example. Give staff permission to disagree healthily and maintain different points of view. You also need to be able to manage your own stress levels during this process and keep calm under pressure. 

Practise what you preach 

The best way to demonstrate strong leadership is to develop a policy that accounts for and trains staff in dealing with conflict. A lot of leaders avoid conflict, trying to delegate negative situations. But there is a real opportunity here for leadership development.

You can coach people in healthy communication by observing disagreements and then discussing the situation straight away while it’s fresh. The reason I do this is to understand the personalities of my team better, which is good for my own development and also develops their own self-awareness. During this process, I try to remain objective to avoid making it personal or escalating tension unnecessarily. 

Be an active listener

I can’t stress enough how important it is to listen to everyone’s ideas and points of view. Don't let your ego get carried away by always trying to be the centre of attention or by assuming you understand a situation entirely. 

Listening is one of the most important communication skills. If you constantly just 'tell' people what to do and don't explain 'why' then you will be perceived as controlling. 

At Flight Centre, we allocate time for relationship building to reinforce good behaviours and introduce alternative approaches to communication. Our leaders are trained in conflict resolution so that our staff can interact healthily, which helps to drives performance. 

At Flight Centre, we’re always on the hunt for great leaders to join our team. Interested in being part of the family? Check out our latest job opportunities.

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