Conflicts are inevitable, even in the most engaged of workplaces. Regardless of the source of the conflict, if they are left unresolved, conflicts can quickly impact employee morale and productivity.

This article will cover the basic team conflict management skills that you should practice, as well as several common situations and how you should approach them.

It’s important to practice the following skills in conflict resolution:

  • Create a healthy culture. Treat everyone in your team fairly and equally, provide them with praise and recognition, and be open and honest at all times.
  • Learn to spot the early signs of conflict. Read team members’ body language (e.g. crossed arms), facial expressions and tone of voice.
  • Deal with conflict promptly. Take action early to help your people resolve the situation before it escalates.
  • Develop rules for handling conflict. Ensure team members listen to one another, respect each other’s points of view, and refrain from interrupting each other.
  • Never take sides. Your role is to help the team members address the issues causing the conflict and to reach a resolution that works well for them.

As the HR manager in your company you should be able to provide help and support to your colleagues and lead team building and conflict management activities.

Common types of workplace conflict

Three of the most common types of workplace conflicts that you’ll experience are with the boss, your co-workers, or the team.  Here we discuss each type and give you handy tips on dealing with each area.

Conflict with the boss

An employee who has constant clashes with his or her boss typically come about because he or she shows little faith in their skills and ability, and doesn’t have confidence that the employee can get the job done without micromanagement.

The individual may have been overlooked for a promotion, or their boss may have different ideas about what the employee’s role should be, and very different perceptions about priorities and what needs to be done.

Tips on resolving conflict with a boss

If there is conflict between a boss and an employee, it’s important to understand the boss’s goals and motivations, while letting the employee express their concerns, while exploring ways for them to work better together.

For example, the boss may have no idea that the employee was looking for more responsibility, and their “micromanaging” of them was just their way of making sure the employee didn’t get overwhelmed with the tasks at hand.

Getting insight into a boss’s reasoning and outlook may spark ideas about new techniques for handling the situation.

Conflict with a colleague

In today’s working world, collaboration is key. But, the office can be a stressful, competitive place that doesn’t always bring out everyone’s best side.

Tension can flare up among co-workers for any number of reasons. From perceptions of unfair workloads, unjust recognition, favouritism, to different views on how a task should be completed.

However, some of the most problematic conflicts with colleagues come about because of egos, personal values, and office politics.

Tips on resolving conflict with a colleague

With an honest and open approach, you can resolve most types of co-worker conflicts.

When it comes to differing views on how a task should be accomplished, it’s important to recognise all ideas, and find common ground. Focus on what aspects both parties agree on, and figure out if there’s one way that appeals to both of them. If not, approach someone higher up to get their help on making the decision.

To resolve more difficult conflicts with colleagues, it’s important to approach the situation with a positive attitude and focus on solutions, rather apportioning blame.

Conflict with direct reports or team members

Conflict with direct reports can erupt if a team member appears to be slacking off and not pulling their weight, while their poor performance goes unchecked.

At the same time, workplace change like a new boss or a peer being given more responsibility can also spark conflict as workers try to adapt to new situations. Other factors include an individual’s self-esteem, their personal goals, values and needs.

Tips on resolving conflicts between direct reports or teammates

The longer a conflict between team members goes on, the more it will snowball. So, it’s important to have difficult conversations with the team members early on. Look at issues objectively, and make work-related outcomes and behavioural expectations clear.

Alternatively, where both team members have credible ideas on a solution yet cannot find common ground, draw on a senior member of staff to help find the compromise.

Team conflict is normal

It’s important to understand that a conflict-free workplace is not necessarily a good thing. Conflict is both normal and healthy. Creating a culture where dissent is encouraged and where everyone feels safe to disagree with one another can spark innovation, and future success.

Indeed, healthy conflict is not toxic. Nor will it destroy your work environment or company culture. In fact, handled properly through appropriate team conflict management activities, conflict can generate that spark of ingenuity that is so important to the health of the business.

So, as the HR manager, it’s important to treat conflict with respect. But, instead of cleaning up other people’s messes, empower your people to work through the problems themselves.