Hire right, take actions timely, reduce conflict, and promote collaboration

 A person reading a paper with a sign that says "We're HIRING" in large letters as if that is what the reader is reading

The best places to work create a collaborative, peaceful, and supportive workplace for their employees. However, no matter what conflict arises. As a leader it is up to you to handle conflict in your organization. So, how do you deal with conflict in the workplace? You need some strategies and approaches. How can you build a stronger sense of team, inspire deeper understanding, and empathy between team members? When you do you enhance retention and keep the best and brightest on board because they want to contribute to your mission and collaborate.


Conflict management matters


The list of the best places to work for 2021 has come out. One common theme regardless of size is that

the best places to work have focused on conflict resolution, mental health of their employees, and the overall wellbeing of everyone

with a much bigger emphasis than ever before. With Covid-19, vaccine concerns, an ever-changing set of directions as the pandemic changes, masking instructions and more, employers, employees, parents, friends, and relatives have all been touched in some way shape or form. The best employers recognize this and have taken steps to team build, stay in touch by connecting more, listening more, and addressing conflicts even before they materialize.

The average employee spends almost 3 hours a week dealing with conflict. It increases absenteeism by 25%, and 76% of employees have gone out of their way to avoid others because of disagreements at work. This all adds up. No question conflicts are there. When conflict is present it is important to step in quickly to help diffuse the situation.


Strategies to resolve conflict


It starts with having strategies regarding conflict management. You need to hire the right people that have a collaborative positive attitude, be proactive to nip conflicts in the bud, train your people in conflict resolution skills, apply mediation between parties when necessary, and lead by example based on ethical principles.

Hire the right people

People who engage others and want to connect with others are keys when you are hiring the right people.

Collaborative, empathetic, caring, kind employees that communicate well with others makes all the difference.

 Focus on those that are team players and want to see the organization succeed. Those that make a point to listen to others actively by asking open ended questions, suspending judgment, and listening before offering advice tend to rise in leadership in the best organizations. These are the kinds of people you want to hire and train. As a result, they tend to want to stay longer and produce more, while helping to sustain a collaborative environment. They tend to be more positive and stay focused on the problem while not blaming themselves or others. These people that tend to have good skills related to conflict resolution or if they do not, they tend to welcome training in this area. Their goal is continual improvement technically and behaviorally.

Be proactive and timely

Minor issues can blow up into major concerns if not addressed timely. Be proactive. Keeping an eye out for potential concerns is especially important. Almost ninety percent of employees have experienced workplace escalated conflict and twenty percent indicate they are still dealing with it. When you are aware is when you need to act.

When you see or hear of something that is when to inquire further.

 Approach what you see with an open mind, a positive attitude, and a questioning perspective. Instill this approach with your people too.

Train your people

According to the CCP survey 57% of employees surveyed have had conflict resolution training. Businesses recognize the need, and they are taking action.

 Conflict resolution training gives your employees tools they can use on the job.

As with anything, practice is needed going forward. Just because someone has been trained does no mean they fully understand it, can apply it, or are now an expert. Be patient. This will develop into a more collaborative environment with time and practice. Consider mediation and mediation training going forward for those with the interest and the desire to enhance their skills.

Mediate the conflict

In mediation the parties can:

  • Hear both sides openly without interruption. They can tell their side of the story and to be heard. This is particularly important.
  • Question and expand their understanding and to help each other perceive where each party is coming from to see the other party’s perspective.
  • Focus is on the problem. The mediator redirects blame and helps the parties to stay centered on the area in question.
  • Address the problem at hand, and potentially to dig deeper to address the root cause to help prevent future conflicts too.

A trained and experienced mediator is a true neutral who is there to help, be supportive, and to encourage resolution. Here are five dispute resolution skills to help you. Participants leave knowing they have been heard. This goes a long way towards future understanding and collaboration.

Lead by example

Having presented ethics training with the title “Lead by Example” to CPA societies nationally, I believe you must also

focus on what is ethical leadership and explore guiding principles that allow leaders to lead with a moral compass.

With ethical leadership it is possible to bring the best out in others when you focus on positive intent and impact. Leading with the greater good in mind promotes a vision for the future for ethical change. It is important to think beyond the rules of professional conduct and to focus on the big picture with a principles-based perspective. When you pursue personal, professional, and organizational applications based on guiding principles these tend to promote collaboration while reducing stress and conflict. These are the keys to leading by example.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at mg@mikegreg.com and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]