How to resolve and manage conflict in teams
In any team, conflicts between employees happen – it’s a natural part of people’s lives at work. Most of the time, people come to an agreement in time, and conflicts exhaust themselves. But sometimes conflicts become protracted and can lead to bad consequences: loss of productivity, absenteeism, mental health problems, or even people getting fired.
People who are offended create a toxic atmosphere in the team – gossiping behind their backs and turning people against each other. As a result, team members begin to interact less well or stop interacting with each other altogether. A small scratch turns into a festering wound that slows down work, limits creativity and lowers morale.
When two people interact poorly, it allows conflict to escalate, spreading to other team members and their leaders. https://alistapart.com/
“Conflict must be resolved before it has a chance to escalate and become toxic,” said Stuart Hearn, CEO of software company Clear Review. It can be awkward and difficult for leaders to resolve conflicts, but the results are worth it.
To solve work problems effectively, it’s important for team leaders to learn to spot disagreements before they turn into conflict. And if they do, resolve them quickly and fairly. The earlier you act, the easier you can resolve conflict.
- Don’t avoid conflict.
Don’t give in to the urge to find the right time and place to resolve conflict. There will always be other urgent tasks and problems that need to be resolved immediately.
For example, the UX designer and product manager have a disagreement. Instead of agreeing on a work plan and timeline, they each blamed the company’s “processes” and said that management couldn’t clearly articulate their roles. In other words, each wanted to be considered “in charge” of the project. It was obvious to the leader that processes were not the problem. By taking the blame for the company’s poor structure, he could have avoided some difficult conversations.
The team leader then asked the manager to establish an honest and open relationship with the UX designer and start sharing the complexities and nuances of the project with him. The manager’s willingness to openly express his doubts and ask for advice relieved tensions. The UX designer understood the challenges and began to offer creative and bold solutions that helped improve the product. As a result, they were able to find a solution to their differences, mostly because they were willing to show each other a certain amount of respect.
The worst solution is when leaders move people from team to team in the hope that they will magically find a group of people with whom they will work well. Sometimes displaced employees don’t realize that their behavior or attitude is unacceptable. Instead of solving the problem, it only fuels resentment.
Leaders need to create an environment in which people can solve problems openly, feel safe discussing conflicts, and take responsibility for resolving them.
- Have clear goals
If company goals and objectives are not clear or communicated to all team members, people are more likely to encounter conflicts. For example, a project goal doesn’t exist, or it’s so complex and confusing that the team doesn’t understand how to influence it.
When the team doesn’t know what “mountain” they are trying to climb, people focus only on the parts of the project that are important to them. Everyone jealously guards their “territory,” so it becomes difficult to collaborate.
- What language do employees use to describe each other? Disengaged teams say “UX thinks” or “product wants.” Unified teams say “we.”
- How easy or difficult is it to evaluate a task? Disengaged teams fight at the level of difficulty. Unified teams talk about tradeoffs and argue about what’s best for the product or customers.
- Can employees describe their goal easily and consistently? Unified teams don’t have a clear and consistent answer. Unified teams nod their heads when one of their members shares a concise answer.
A team is disjointed when the leader hasn’t set a common goal for people. Emails or eloquent words alone are not enough. Formulate goals and objectives in simple words and talk about them until the whole team begins to understand them in the same way.
- Talk to people
Leaders can make decisions about who will perform certain tasks on the team. And delegate functions to the people who can do them best. In doing so, it’s important to communicate your decisions honestly and openly to the entire team.
When a leader announces to the team that one person is right and the other is wrong, it turns a team problem into an organizational problem.
The following rules will help you:
- Stick to the facts and make sure personal feelings or agendas don’t interfere with an objective assessment of the problem;
- Listen to everyone involved and explain why you feel that way in order to be properly understood by the team;
- Respect the opinions of all colleagues and build transparent and positive team relationships.
Leaders need to quickly, clearly, and decisively communicate to people about their bad behavior. For example, when a co-worker raises his or her voice to a colleague, it is worth making it clear immediately that this is unacceptable in the team and should not be repeated.
- Ask for help
In cases where it is difficult to resolve a conflict on your own and counseling is needed, you can seek help from an HR employee or team coach. Conflict resolution often requires working together and understanding different points of view.
When conflicts are resolved, the best way to move forward is to recognize that mistakes can always happen. A team that is willing to work together to resolve conflict will be able to improve their relationships and achieve high goals.
According to the Thomas-Kilman Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), used by HR professionals around the world, there are 5 basic styles of conflict management: cooperation, competition, avoidance, accommodation and compromise.
Knowing when and how to use each style will help you control conflict and improve your work environment.
Tips for the manager: conflict in the team, what to do?
There are often situations in teams today where there are employees, but there is no team. As a rule, the absence of a team is associated with the presence of conflicts between people. The topic of interpersonal relations is one of the most basic, in my opinion. It’s worth spending more time on, and issues related to conflict are not resolved very quickly. It is a long work of the supervisor and the subordinates. Given that managers are almost always busy with something more global, they may not have time to deal with conflict resolution. In this case, a psychologist or conflictologist hired from the outside would not hurt. But still, let’s talk about what a manager can do to prevent a conflict or to resolve with benefit to all the disagreements that have arisen.
Conflicts are particularly acute in a period of change, restrictions, changes in the usual conditions. And we live in a time when effective relationships in the team are very valuable because they directly affect the results of the company.
What is conflict?
The first thing that is important to understand is that conflicts are very useful, you should not be afraid of them. If there is a conflict in the team, it means it is “alive”, people care about their work, and they are likely to be interested in maintaining their place, in this case there is a chance to create an effective team. In addition, the conflict is an excellent channel for the accumulated negative within each of the employees. As every psychologist knows, negative emotions should not be kept inside. Of course, it is better not to pour them all out on the victim, but to “talk” them out, for example, first to the psychologist, but if the employee did not hold back, what to do? First: minimize the possibility of conflict.
Generally speaking, the first step on the road to minimizing conflicts is conscious recruitment. A manager should think about what kind of employees he wants to see around him. Usually a person’s character and behavioral tendencies can be revealed at the interview with the help of all sorts of tests and cases. It is also important to understand during the interview whether the employee supports the goals, values, mission and the usual process of the company, so to speak, whether he/she is on the same page with it. Find out what the employee’s plans are for their service, what can they offer the company to develop? How does he see his job there? How can he or she be useful? See if your views on the company and its future development converge.
It is also important to familiarize the employee with his job responsibilities in detail from the start. Any abstraction at the company can lead to a conflict. The more clarity in the work, the less likely it is.
Second: overcoming barriers
In my opinion, there are two kinds of barriers: communicative and perceptive. Communicative barriers include: not understanding the goals of related departments or the goals of employees from those departments, and thus guessing non-existent facts about their activities. People are not in the habit of clarifying and finding out what their colleagues are doing, what problems and tasks they are solving, what difficulties there are, what they can be useful for. As a consequence, there is a distortion of information in its transmission. Also, often triggered by internal attitudes of rivalry. People forget that they are working for a common goal and result. Instead of sitting down to negotiate, they compete, prove, conflict.
Under the barriers of perception we mean not the ability to listen and hear. Most of it is influenced by psychological characteristics of colleagues, such as temperament and thinking. There are people who are business-oriented, it is important for them to be “quick and to the point”, and there are people who are relationship-oriented, it is important for them to talk and create a warm atmosphere, these two categories speak “different languages”. If these features are not taken into account, it turns out that the basic needs of everyone will remain ignored. Social differences, the education of employees, differences in vocabulary and lexicon, different levels of knowledge about the subject of discussion are also taken into account. Communication barriers are mostly solved thanks to the manager. His or her task is to explain to everyone who does what, clearly designate duties, areas of responsibility, etc., to introduce opportunities for collective communication (planning sessions, meetings, feedback, individual meetings, corporate events), to inspire the team to achieve a common goal and a common result, and finally to motivate employees financially to achieve the goal. To overcome perception barriers the role of subordinates is important – their desire to hear and listen to each other. It appears after the overcoming of communicative barriers, where the manager contributed to this.
Third: neutralizing conflicts.
If the first stage was skipped, there is a team and barriers are already in place, but there is a conflict, first it is necessary to understand if there is a desire and motivation of the employees to resolve the conflict and if there is a goal which these relations are necessary for – this prerogative rests with the manager – he shows his team the importance and effectiveness of positive interaction. His task is to unite and inspire them with a common goal and result. It is also worth taking into account the individual characteristics of personalities, understanding and acceptance of these features by each member of the team and knowledge of “effective approaches” to their colleague, subordinate, leader is a qualitative basis for the conflict to move from the dead point towards resolution.
There are things that are important to both supervisors and subordinates. It is the ability to get out of conflict, the so-called “ways of reconciliation.”
– Accepting responsibility: apologizing, expressing regret for past behavior, accepting personal responsibility for part of the problem. – Finding a solution: concessions on a disputed issue, offering a compromise, finding mutually beneficial solutions. – Accepting the position of the interlocutor: expressing understanding of the other’s problems, recognizing the legitimacy of the other’s point of view, expressing good feelings, asking for honest feedback. – Explanation of own motives: disclosure of own needs, thoughts, feelings, motives.
The duty of the leader in a conflict:
– Call subordinates for a face-to-face discussion and try to objectively assess the cause of the conflict, to hear and take into account the views of each of the conflicting parties. – You can try to organize a dialogue between the conflicting parties, with the participation of the supervisor, where you can express all claims in a civilized form. – If the conflict is difficult to neutralize, it is possible to delimit the zones of responsibility, goals, resources, responsibilities, etc. of the conflicting parties. – Be sure to give an opportunity to release emotions. It is possible to do this in a direct way, or you can use more creative methods: arrange a corporate competition format (paintball, bowling, quests, etc.) – Have a sense of humor and be able to “mirror” any conflict in a positive way, with a dose of irony and wisdom.
In any case, it is worth remembering that we are all human and we have human desires, specific character traits and ambitions. By taking this into account, we make a breakthrough toward positive relationships, even if the basic contradiction is not resolved. People tend to get angry-it is a normal defensive reaction of their psyche. It can be very difficult to take the initiative to reconcile when the other is wrong, but if we do, everyone ends up in a win-win situation. Everyone tends to defend his or her own mistakes, while admitting his or her own mistakes triggers reciprocal impulses of nobility in the opponent.