While employees deal with difficult customers from time to time, it's a wholly different skill from dealing with difficult employs when they get promoted up the ranks to management. Conflict resolution should form part of management training because it is an essential skill in a manager's toolkit. CPP found that employees in the US spent a grand total of 2.8 hours every week dealing with conflict in the workplace, not an insignificant figure by any means. Conflict management can make or break a team, especially if conflict leads to underperformance by team members or degrades the position of authority of the managerial leader for the team.
The Cost of Conflict
Dealing with difficult employees has an attached cost to the company, although that cost might not always be directly in monetary value. Chances are, because of conflict within the workplace, certain employees tend to want to spend less time in the workplace and so get less done. This leads to a drop in productivity which will show up when next an earning's report is published. As Mediate notes, 65% of poor employee performance is due to relationships within the workplace. Additionally, bad relationships lead to angry employees which then devolves into a hostile work environment where people tend to make bad decisions driven by emotion and not logic. In the worst cases, this could even devolve into medical conditions associated with stress.
What A Manager Ought to Know
Conflict within any workplace is an inevitability. The Society for Human Resource Management states that no matter how much an employer tries, there will always have some sort of friction occurring between one or more parties because of how people are wired [https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/pages/070815-conflict-man.... In order for a manager to approach and deal with conflict purposefully, he or she needs to diagnose the situation and determine how to push that situation to a conclusion. In conflict, closure is very important. Getting to that point of closure is where managing the conflict comes in. There are a few key factors that a manager can leverage when dealing with conflict, such as:
- Using empathy in order to let the person speaking understand that you hear and understand their complaints.
- Encourage breaks if talk gets too heated between employees. The sooner the better, since the longer this goes on the more likely it is to erupt into a serious argument
- In the case of decision-makers, asking the right questions can help resolve issues, even if it means the manager has to compromise on his or her agenda in order to make it happen
- Present a solution and inquire about how they feel about it
- Deal with the situation on a one-on-one basis
- Reinforce the idea of teamwork and remind the difficult employee that teamwork requires all parties involved to pull their weight
Conflict Resolution Transcends Cultural Boundaries
Regardless of where in the world a company is located, there will always be a need for a manager that can successfully and efficiently resolve conflict within the workplace. There are too many factors that fuel conflict to be able to stop it from happenings, so as a manager the second best thing one can do is manage it successfully, preferably with attention to keeping a team intact. While the skill of conflict management seems to be lacking from management training, it’s not something that managers can afford to ignore altogether. More often than not, a manager with proper conflict management will not only have more productive teams under him or her, but be sought after as a leader by others in the same organization. Conflict management is not just a productivity skill to make a manager's life easier, it's essential to preserving the operational capacity of the company as a whole.
Tanmoy is a senior consultant and a passionate speaker in the area of training and development. He has a dual MBA (Finance & Marketing) and an Electronics Engineering degree. He is married and currently lives in Toronto, Canada.