No matter what the size, big or small, your business is bound to deal with the occasional moment of conflict. If your business is just you, then you have nothing to worry about, but for those dealing with a small to medium size, it’s another story. Being your own boss can be both rewarding and challenging, but the one thing owners should expect is conflict. It can come in many forms and seem overwhelming but with these tips, you can tackle any problem confidently.
One thing you shouldn’t do with conflict is avoid it. No matter the size, it’s expected that you’ll have different opinions from time to time, especially since your employees are bound to have unique personalities. Deflecting an argument or failing to address the issue head on, is a sure way to increase the tension. Acknowledging that there is a problem is one of the best ways to resolve conflict in the workplace, making it one step closer to helping your employees with any issues.
One thing you don’t want to do is lie to yourself. No one is perfect, which means no workplace is perfect and that’s not a bad thing. Dealing with a variety of people can be stressful and challenging, but it’s not impossible. In most cases, there’s a valid reason as to why the conflict started, but you have to admit that there’s a problem first. Brushing things under the rug isn’t healthy and is just another way of avoiding your issues, leading to greater ones in the future.
Also, being aware of your own biases is also a helpful tool and hopefully you have someone on your team who isn’t afraid to call you out, respectfully. You may not realize it, but if you have one employee that you favour over another, then that can cloud your judgement. Be honest with yourself and be mindful that anything is possible, no matter how hard the truth might be.
Often times people forget that talking to each other is an important step in resolving any issues. Interestingly enough, as we get older, we become less open with what bothers us and tend to hold it in. This is an unhealthy way to deal with conflict as it can escalate when least expected. Addressing a problem or grievance with a colleague (or even your boss) shouldn’t be brought up unprovoked or inconveniently. Instead, a time and place should be set aside for all parties involved, in a civil manner, so that any differences can be discussed.
Attacking someone’s character isn’t helpful and the problem should be focused on the work, not the person. However, if the problem pertains to the person’s character or behaviour, then address it with a superior (or Human Resources) present. Remember to try and be respectful as possible, considering that you’re in a professional environment. Sometimes the issue at hand is a case of miscommunication, instead of a tangible dispute. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing with someone, as long as the delivery isn’t hostile or combative.
When dealing with conflict, it can be hard to sympathize with the other person. It’s even harder to empathize with them, especially when you feel they have wronged you or made you look bad. The point of resolution isn’t to post blame, but to find a solution. Accountability doesn’t have to mean fault and should be regarded as a learning experience. Bosses shouldn’t look to assign blame, as scapegoating won’t solve anything. It’s a special gift to be able to see where someone else is coming from, even when you disagree with them or dislike them. Learning their side of the story and what led to the conflict, might give you insight on how the conflict started.
When it comes to any kind of discord, crisis and opportunity can often be the same thing. Conflict in your business can lead to learning something new about how it runs, including the people running it. Not all workplace fights lead to an amicable solution, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a solution. It’s because of adversity that people get the chance to learn and grow from past mistakes, so they don’t repeat them later.
When there’s an issue, colleagues get to learn more about each other, and bosses can learn how to manage different personality types. While most interviews are used to screen for people that will match the work culture, that doesn’t mean lack of disagreement. Like a family, coworkers don’t always get along and it’s actually healthy to disagree occasionally. How else is someone going to evolve if you don’t challenge them? Some of the best revelations come from a crisis and that’s often when your skills are truly tested.
Dontei Wynter | Staff Writer