Different views are healthy but they shouldn’t turn into conflict
Conflict is often regarded as inevitable when you work with others. Team members will have different perspectives and, in certain situations, those differences may escalate into conflict.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has found organisations use over 350 days of management resources a year dealing with grievances and disciplinary cases as a result of conflict.
Tips for managing team conflict
● Be aware of tensions before they escalate: hold regular one-to-one discussions with staff to keep up to date and ensure they are happy
● Act immediately: talk to individuals early to establish reasons for conflict and act informally initially through mediation. Listen
● Be open to resolving issues: encourage immediate resolution through discussion to avoid tension building up
● Remain objective: this will help staff see the facts clearly with less emotion. Don’t let conflict become personal
● Clarify positions: understand all perspectives and establish the facts before making a judgement
● Address conflict openly: depending on the issue, adopt a team approach to resolving problems. Value all contributions to motivate staff
● Discuss the impact: as a team, discuss the impact the conflict is having on dynamics and performance. Everyone must agree to cooperate
● Approach issues positively: ask staff what team success looks like, how to get it and when. This will create ownership in resolving issues without having to identify individuals or situations.
● Be clear about roles: establish expectations on conduct and mutual requirements needed for working well together
● Maintain integrity: respect and protect confidential information. Staff are more likely to be open with managers if this is the case
The financial impact of this is significant, alongside the cost of increased absence due to stress and anxiety.
Healthy conflict can be good for a team as positive and constructive challenge can demonstrate organisational learning. Constructive conflict is regarded as a component of high-functioning teams because a range of varying perspectives can produce innovative and resourceful outcomes to problems.
However, not all conflict is positive and managers need the skills to deal with conflict quickly to prevent situations from escalating.
Managers need to understand the relationships within their teams and be aware of how their teams interact with each other to avoid resentful and negative behaviours becoming established.
Appreciating the various team viewpoints to avoid conflict requires clear, effective communication and well-developed team skills. To support teams, managers need to understand how to resolve conflict and develop a team approach to avoiding unhealthy conflict in day-to-day teamworking.
Rachel Wingfield is the business development manager at the East Midlands Leadership Academy and has a background in human resource management and organisational development