Around 80% of the time, people get along. There may be some low-level friction now and again and it is common amongst people to irritate one another at some point during the day or week.
However, if the low-level friction is happening more regularly and you are aware of tension between people building up, it needs to be assertively dealt with before it escalates.
Equally, if tension builds and explosive confrontation happens with negative feelings lingering, then teams can produce lower levels of productivity.
1/ Dormant Stage: Individuals are not fully aware of all the conflict issues yet. They may be starting to feel low levels of annoyance and frustration
2/ Awareness Stage: One or more person is aware a conflict exists. The issues have been brought into the conscious mind and tension towards another person is building.
3/ Impact Stage: The conflict is starting to impact on stress and anxiety levels. The issues are building, and emotions are on the increase. Communications can suffer leading to more misunderstandings and frustrations.
4/ Confrontation Stage: Conflict is open and can be observed. Exchanges of words are happening, and individuals are made aware of how the other person feels.
5/ Aftermath: Outcome of conflict, resolution, or dissolution.
Conflict is natural and needs to be dealt with before it escalates, and relationships break down completely. Dealing with the smaller lower levels of frustrations can prevent them from festering and growing in seriousness.
The different types of conflicts will depend on how easily they can be resolve. Some conflicts are innocent misunderstandings that once addressed, resolve themselves and people move on.
However, some conflicts challenge our fundamental core values which requires time, careful handling, and a safe environment for people to explore and discuss differences and perspectives.
Common Causes of Workplace Conflict
Our Blog Workplace Conflict Management V2
From working with different companies, industries, and sectors we have identified three common causes for workplace conflict and frustrations.
1. Conflicts over process, procedures, and methods
When internal processes, procedures and methods of work are not clear, or someone is not fully trained errors can occur and frustrations build. Often it is a case of unconscious incompetence, the person is not aware of the mistakes they are making. Immediate supportive feedback is needed to fill in the knowledge and skills gaps to prevent repetition and escalation. Where mistakes are happening, and the person is fully trained then open and honest feedback is needed and action plans discussed. Motivation levels, worries and concerns needs to be explored to understand the persons situation fully.
2. Conflict over the purpose
Unclear purpose around project aims, job role, objectives, KPIs, company goals, vision and mission and responsibilities can cause frustrations and misunderstandings. This can slow down outputs and be demotivating for those involved. The grey areas between departments and where one person’s responsibilities end, and others start is common in the workplace. Having clearly defined goals, joint objectives and purpose can focus and pull people to work in the same direction for greater outputs. Investing time in reviewing and refreshing workflows and processes is essential to effective working and lowering unnecessary stress.
3. Conflict over values & culture
When personal core values and culture is perceived to be under scrutiny or disrespected; trust, respect and understanding can be lost. These fundamental elements are key to productive relationships – it can take a long time to rebuild what was lost. This type of conflict in the workplace can have damaging impacts if not immediately addressed and carefully dealt with. Conscious and Unconscious bias and behaviours will have emotional impacts and does not make for a healthy and inclusive workplace. Managers may need to look for professional support in tackling these issues if they do not have experience or confidence in dealing with these situations. Doing nothing and hoping it ‘blows over’ is not acceptable and trust in managers ability the lead the team can be lost. If managers are not dealing with the situation, then employees need to seek higher support and backing to get immediate help.
Tips for Dealing with Conflict
Self-awareness: Being aware of your own biases towards the people and the situation. Knowing your ability to stay logical and balanced when talking to the person/dealing with the situation is key for emotionally intelligent conversations and resolution. If you know you are thinking more emotionally then delay conversations until you are calmer and more rational.
Be clear on your bottom line: Before entering a conversation, what do you need from this situation, what is your bottom line? Having a clearly defined end goal can help you to stay focused and keep conversations directed in the right way.
Raise the issue: Choose a place that is ideally neutral to the parties involved and away from others that are not. Where possible, time the meeting for when emotions have reduced, encouraging a more logical conversation. Where needed, bring in impartial people to help facilitate the conversation in a fair and assertive way.
Question and listen: In most situations, there are three perspectives: Yours, theirs, and reality. Seek to understand their perspective first, actively listen without judgement. Emotionally detaching yourself from your own perspectives is tough, with practice it can help to gain a more balanced viewpoint of the situation and what is needed to resolve and improve.
Share your perspective: Assertively express your perspective of what you have heard and seen. Take ownership and use the word “I” to own your perspective and opinions. Be mindful that the of tone of voice is balanced and calm to lower the defense mechanism in others. It is not what you say, but how you say it! If people feel they are being blamed or attacked, the fight or flight response can be triggered which can break down conversations.
Mutual understanding: Summarise, clarify, and agree the issues for each person involved.
Moving forward: Try not to allow the conversation to dwell on the conflict once a mutual understanding has been agreed. Explore solutions to help deal with the issues and move forward towards an outcome.
Summarise and agree: Once the conflict has been explored and action plans put into place, agree a date to revisit and to ensure it hasn’t escalated again.