One of the most difficult things about leading a business is negotiating conflict within the workplace. Some managers like to bury their head in the sand and never address anything, while others are a little too trigger-happy when it comes to discipline, and end up damaging their relationships with employees.
Practice Active Listening
The majority of conflicts are caused by a breakdown of communication, or when one person isn’t actually hearing what the other has to say. That’s why active listening is so important. This goes beyond simply nodding your head. It’s about validating their emotions and experience, even if you disagree with them.
Paraphrasing what they said and repeating it back to them is a good way to show that you are practicing active listening. Remember, when the person is explaining themselves, don’t interrupt or be critical of them or their argument. You shouldn’t give unsolicited advice, either. Instead, you must be genuinely empathic and take the time to thoroughly process what they have said. This will build a stronger relationship between you and your employee.
Learn How to Step Back
When people become embroiled in conflict, they can lose sight and perspective. The issue transitions from a professional matter to a personal one. As such, business managers need to remind themselves to step back and re-evaluate the situation with ‘emotional distance’.
This doesn’t mean being unempathetic. It’s about unclouding your judgement, so you can become objective and find solutions. For instance, rather than thinking there must be a right or wrong answer, find a compromise between the two arguments. You will be surprised how different a situation can look from a distance.
Practice Optimism and Persistence
Conflict in the workplace can often lead to people feeling overly pessimistic about their situation and the other person. Rather than seeing the positive progress that has been made, they become fixated on the negative things that they still need to overcome.
As such, business managers must try to remain optimistic (even if this is tricky). They should give themselves and their employees the chance to improve first – after the initial conflict has passed, they will be grateful to have that second chance.
Know When Enough is Enough
Despite all your best efforts, if an employee still isn’t being receptive, then it’s important to recognise when enough is enough. Some business leaders struggle with this step because they’re empathetic and/or don’t like conflict, but it can be necessary.
Once things have reached their tipping point, it’s worth consulting with employment solicitors. They can provide professional advice on mediating the situation. For example, if you are having trouble with discipline, absenteeism or dismissing an employee, they will know exactly what you need to do next. They should also help to protect you from wrongful dismissal lawsuits when things have ended badly with a previous employee.
We hope you have found this guide on navigating workplace conflict helpful. Remember, active listening, objectivity and persistence are key.