Advice, Tips, and Observations on Business and Consumers

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Conflicts At Work

Conflicts exist in all avenues of life, it is inevitable. The earth is home to 7 billion of people, it is 7 billion different people. There are no two person who have exactly the same perception about everything. Conflict is in fact the result of friction and disagreements between two or more people, when the views and opinions of one party is resisted, rejected or deemed wholly unacceptable by the other party.

However, it does not need to have the aversive outcome as it may sound to most people, it can be healthy, lead to more efficiency and team spirit. Notwithstanding this, if we look at the other side of the coin, it can be destructive, depending on the extent it goes, if it is effectively managed or not. Conflicts have two extremes, its up to you, to chose your side. Arguments for that matter, can either damage your relationship or deepen it. In a business organisation, if everyone have the same opinion all the time then watch out, something must be wrong.

Even the most able managers might not always be able to get a through all conflicts without any leaving any feathers unruffled, some are more complex than others. A quick way to to make sure that there are no contrasting opinions, will be to follow an autocratic system, which is a management style, but do you really want that? Do you want to take all decisions? Arguably we all know that this does not really work in a company where teamwork is the heart and discipline are the lungs for success. The consequences of conflicts in some cases can lead to frustration and frustration is the cancer of businesses, it slowly consume the organisation from the inside, then one day boom, you notice that demotivation have taken the upper hand and nothing really feels right. The good news is that it can be fixed, if you wake up at the right time, you can save the day.

What lead to conflicts? Well we were not raised in the same way, in the same environment, what is important for you might be insignificant to me or your co worker. We have been exposed to different experiences, cultures, values and traditions, that make us react in a distinctive way, our past experiences shaped our thought pattern. Moreover, people have varying degrees of sensitivity, what is offendable to me, might not mean anything to you. In a discussion a particular critic might be a total turn off for me, putting me on defensive mode and later on lead to a degenerative argument, because it is important for me, while its not for you. The harmony within the organisation can take a serious irreversible blow. If there is no harmony, there is no teamwork, no teamwork no sense of belonging hence lower group productivity. Well, you get it, without harmony everything gets more complicated. The common identity is lost. The train slows down. The objectives gets hidden behind a veil of mist.

I have tried to address 18 tips I believe are important to manage conflicts, while you may have some of your own, kindly share them in the comments box.
Do not get personal. Debate the idea, not the person. Once you start getting personal, the whole argument is flawed. That person may agree his/her idea is not appropriate and may get over it, criticising them personally would make you lose that person. You have been employed to work on ideas, not about the choices your colleagues make in their private life.
While talking to a group, pay particular attention to the words you use when you need to point to someone to state that the task was not done up to the level. A wrong sentence may make that person feel low in front of their colleagues. This can have drastic consequences in the long run in term of self esteem and confidence that the employee will display. Also try to have eye contact with everyone without focussing on anyone in particular, it will get all the attendees on board.
Use the right tone. Somebody once rightly said “10 % of conflicts are due to a difference of opinion. 90 % are due to a wrong tone’. A single word can be understood in many ways, depending on the variation of the tone.
People in an organisation will have different cultures, it is important to be able to navigate through these differences and make these them a strengths. You can benefit tremendously by having a diverse workforce. Be a Symphony Master who can guide an orchestra of 200 musicians playing different instruments, added together produce exquisite music.
Be compassionate when you have to. Tomorrow when you face potential conflicts these same person will be your saviours by adjusting and showing empathy. People working within your organisation apart from work have to deal with a lot of issues that might be very stressful for them. A kind word will never do any harm when you know a colleague is going a rough time, we all go through that. The employee will feel valued and will consequently feel a greater sense of belonging to the company, plus its a nice thing to do.
Be honest. If something cannot be done, say it right away instead of nurturing hope which may later lead to frustration. Facing the truth later, rather than at the moment is only differing frustration.
Proper communication channels should be established. Asking Nayeelah, to ask Dominique to query something from Kevin about Gilbert, is a potential source of conflict. Plus 4 person down the line, the story will be altogether another one. Use direct communication whenever possible, eliminate layers of communication.
Go to the source of the problem and approach it with an open mind, remaining camped on your position does not get things better, a temporary facade can hide a raging volcano.
Respect differences. You need to respect differences, whether your colleague have a different sexual orientation, beliefs or anything else that does not make them same as you. Not respecting differences will lead to conflicts. Your ability to fit in a team, consist of being able to accept others.
Do not storm out of the office if the debate gets heated. If a work debate gets heated it simply means that both care, else there would have been no debate at all. Leaving like that will definitely have an adverse effect. Storming out brings nothing positive, it just put a gloom over the head of everybody.
Be a good listener. People automatically are more prone to talk to people who are good listeners. We have one mouth and two ears, the reason is that we should listen more than talk.
Be sure that the misunderstanding is solved - try to solve it at the source before it gets bigger, prevention is better than cure. It is useless to only give an impression that you have solved issues when deep inside you know that under the dormant silent hills, there is a volcano ragging, ready to erupt when you need it the least.
Now when there are disagreements many prefer to write it rather than talking in person. True, it is a mean many people will prefer. But doing that you do not capture the reaction of the person you are addressing. Plus you can easily go overboard. Use face to face interaction as much as possible.
Manage your own reactions and do not overreact. Overreacting makes matters even more difficult, the argument gets blown out of proportion.
Bite your tongue when the need is felt. There are times when you need to know when to let what you have noticed pass by. Criticising each single thing that you see, can make people feel unappreciated. Evidently this does not mean that you remain silent when you notice something that can directly impact on the organisation. Small issues. Let it go. Move on. Silence is still gold. The most intelligent people are not those who necessarily speak all the times, but closing one's mouth at some moments is a form of intelligence as well.
Do not brood. If something did not get your way, its not the end of the world, the world does not turn around you, neither it turns around me. Its not the first time you did not get things your way, it will not be the last time either. So deal with it and move on. Do not create a long lasting conflict within yourself. Deal with it, in the end, you will all stand to gain.
Different expectations leads to different pathways, so make sure that everyone knows clearly well what is expected of them. Contrasting expectations will inevitably lead to conflicts. Two people who want two different things in a structured environment while the target should be common will lead to disagreements. Targets should be clear.
You may have people in the organisation with whom you share a sort of friendship outside the boundaries of work, where both of your families are used to each other. Do not let that come in a way where your sense of judgment is clouded when it comes to that person or you show favoritism at the expense of others.
Conflicts are part of our everyday life, in a business environment there will inevitably be differences, whilst making it an opportunity to improve or let it take over you is your call. We should face the fatality that even being the best we can, on our best day, adopting the best practices, people may still invariably not be satisfied, which is a right. 2-3 months down the line, you will need to make a choice to see if that person is giving their best, if you have yourself done your best to make things work, before you assess others, do a self retrospective, if after deep thinking and input from staffs, the conflict is impacting on work, then you need to make the choice.

When we look at organisations going past these hurdles and yet make it great, there is no reason you cannot do that as well. Its a matter of maturing the business, to acknowledge that people are not the same, and differences need to be handled with care. Arguments arise because people care, if your employees did not care they would just shrug their shoulders and let it go, your employees debating your ideas openly is a form of healthiness. Solving conflicts at the offset, being open minded, listening to others, communicating in the right tone are the keys to make it the way it should - a healthy organisation where several current flows towards a common goal.

30 March 2015