When employee engagement is discussed, what springs to mind? Team building events? Flexible employers, who facilitate a flexible working environment? While these may boost productivity and employee satisfaction, there is one skill that contributes to the happiness of team members that are often overlooked: the ability to effectively and respectfully resolve conflict.
Whether it’s a dispute between two team members or one that involves external parties, conflicts, personality clashes and disagreements within teams and organizations is inevitable. So, how do your leaders approach the scenario within your organization? And what are the factors that exacerbate the situation, or indeed prevent it from escalating?
According to Harvard’s Program on Negotiation, here are some of the common cognitive and emotional traps – many of them subconscious – that can aggravate conflict and contribute to the need for intervention:
Self-serving perspectives of ‘fairness’:
Rather than deciding what’s fair from a position of neutrality, we interpret what would be most fair to us, then justify this preference on the bases of fairness. For example, department heads are likely to each think they deserve the lion’s share of the annual budget. Fairness is often subjective, and therefore leads to conflict.
This ties in with the emotional trap outlined above; our bias and overconfidence in our own judgments and opinions. This tendency can lead to unrealistic expectations and a lack of willingness to look at both sides of the argument.
A clash of opinions often results in discomfort and distress for the disputants. For some people, the distress is so amplified that avoiding conflict is the key driver of their actions. However, as you may have already guessed, this is counter-productive. In fact, conflict tends to become more entrenched, and parties have a greater need for conflict resolution when they avoid acknowledging and dealing with their uncomfortable emotions.
So now that you know some of the emotional pitfalls that heighten tensions, how can you set up a constructive process that resolves conflict in the workplace? Conflicts can be resolved in a variety of ways, including negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and litigation. In most workplace scenarios, all amicable routes are explored and exhausted before drastic measures like litigation are considered.
Have your leaders been trained in conflict resolution? Speak to our team of leadership coaches to learn more about embedding effective conflict resolution tactics in your leadership training strategy.