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Conflicts at Work

How to Manage & Resolve Them
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We all come from different backgrounds, have different cultures, tastes, the list goes on and on. With so much diversity around us, especially at work, conflicts are just bound to happen.

There is nothing particularly bad about people getting into a conflict. It’s only natural, as work may sometimes get pretty confusing, and a colleague that was getting on your nerves from your first day has just pulled the last straw from your sanity jar.

The main problem with all of this is that people usually don’t think about preventing something like this to happen and act only when the conflict reaches its boiling point.

What Are the Reasons?

There are several reasons for the conflicts to happen. While there may be a completely random reason for people to get into a skirmish, here are some common ones:

  1. Office. Bad working conditions lead to sudden collisions between your workers. People are not mice, they can't be in cramped space most of their time and not become anxious, angry, confused, or all of the above.
  2. Competition. Everybody wants a promotion and a higher salary. When people start getting competitive, it's a conflict just waiting to happen.
  3. Jealousy. The good old "why them and not me?" situation. To be honest, it's hard to avoid this one, as it heavily depends on the person. Some may be very prone to jealousy when others will cheer for the person that got promoted or received a huge bonus.
  4. Bad Working Conditions. Compensation, bonuses, we all wait for our paycheck at the end of the day. If it's inadequate (at least in the eyes of the employee), it may lead to everything from small talk with a manager to a humongous scandal.
  5. Inadequate Training. Challenges are a part of any work routine. In IT, employees' skills vary a lot. When someone is too underskilled for the project, they may become angry and frustrated with you and their colleagues. In return, their seniors will get confused with why such a person works with us. Hence, leading to another conflict.
  6. Human Factors. We all are very different from each other. Some of the colleagues are a good match, but there is almost 100% chance that there will be people who are direct opposites of each other. Let's face it, some folks are just complete assholes. Leaving trash behind them, talking trash, even bullying that one person whom basically everybody likes.

You see, there are so many options for a conflict to emerge seemingly out of nowhere. But can it be really so? No, everything has its roots. And the roots (described above) are what we need to address every time.

Remember, prevention is always more effective than resolution. It is hard to build a system that will make people less prone to starting conflicts with others, but it's well worth it.

For the better mental health of yourself and your employees, you have to work in this direction as a number one priority.

But What If It Happened?

Unfortunately, most of the time there is no way to predict the conflict. There are simply too many variables to look for and there is no way telling something is coming.

When conflict happens, it is important to start resolving it right away. The most crucial part here is never leaving it be. Doing so will only escalate things to a possibly dangerous level: you don't want to lose employees and deal with resignment.

  1. Identify the source. Immediately get to finding a reason for the conflict. Talk to both parties individually and listen. It's important to let them talk their minds and hearts out and only then you'll get what happened.
  2. Analyze. There are almost no situations when only one party is guilty. Get rid of any biases you might have towards the people in conflict and try to think what and who started it, and most importantly, why.
  3. Be empathic. Both parties deserve your deep understanding and empathy: chances are they have their reasons to be upset, so never jump to conclusions or judgment straight away.
  4. Identify the common goal. To resolve the conflict, you need to work with the people in question to meet their goals which leads to the commotion in the first place. You may need to give them a few hours to cool their heads, sit down, and brainstorm what the compromise might be.
  5. Agree on the solution together. After you've determined what the source and goals are, it's time to get to some sort of agreement. It's crucial that it satisfies both parties, and it's better to talk to them privately about it. If everything seems okay, let them know what each of them needs to work on and see to that being done. Consider the conflict resolved!

After you've seemingly resolved a conflict, don't let your guard down. Closely monitor your employees and be aware that some people may not be actually satisfied with what you've come up with as a common goal. If something happens, you now know what to do.