How Smart Leaders Resolve Workplace Conflicts

Posted on July 3rd, 2014
Human Resource Manage

How smart leaders resolve workplace conflicts

Take a number of complete strangers from varied cultures and backgrounds with varied skills, experience and personalities, put them together in a highly pressurized environment, ask them to rely on one another to perform their assigned tasks and what do you get?

It would be naive to think that you wouldn’t have to deal with some degree of conflict. Work environments are microcosms of general society and therefore our expectation that everyone simply get along is unrealistic.

60% of human resource management time is spent on managing and resolving workplace conflict

Conflict is as natural as breathing; when people are required to live, work or play together there is always the potential for conflict. In fact, various studies show that as much as 60% of human resource management time is spent on managing and resolving workplace conflict.

Effective conflict management

In a business environment that relies heavily on team structures and task relationships in which individuals are collectively managed, assessed and rewarded, workplace conflict is almost inevitable.

However, not all conflict is negative, it depends on the type of conflict it is and how well it is managed.

Irrespective of the type of conflict, if not managed properly, it can have a significant and negative impact on a business. This includes decreased productivity, lowered morale, increased absenteeism, staff turnover and ultimately the knock-on effect these issues have on the business’ performance.

If workplace conflict is centred on a work-related issue and it is managed well, it can have a significant and positive impact on a business. After all, conflict is a form of communication that allows varying perspectives and ideas to be presented and analysed; an opportunity to focus minds and energy on a common goal. This process could lead to a compromise that was previously not considered or to a solution that is more innovative and creative than any that existed before the conflict.

To successfully manage and resolve conflict in such a way requires strong leadership.

My top tips for successful resolution are:

  1. Remain completely objective –  Do not mediate if you are directly involved in the issue, either personally or professionally, rather refer the matter to another manager or outsourced professional.
  2. Ensure that you identify a common goal up front –  Continually focus the discussion and interaction on that goal.
  3. Set a deadline for the desired resolution.

See Also: Conflict Resolution 101 for SMEs: Tips for Effective Management

About the author: Kay Vittee is the CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions (Pty) Ltd one of South Africa’s leading staffing solutions provider. She’s a business woman holding a Masters in Business Administration, a B.Com (Banking and Economics) and various other financial and marketing qualifications. Kay’s business acumen and success have made her a sought after speaker and thought leader.