What can you do when conflict is simply unavoidable? Missing a deadline and having to face a manager, for example. Or disagreeing on a mission critical detail of a key project. It might be that person who fills the office with the smell of tuna every lunchtime (Yes, we’re looking at you).
It can be an upsetting thing, when a colleague and former comrade suddenly feels like an enemy. Conflict causes what renowned psychologist, Daniel Goleman, calls an amygdala hijack. It’s when the part of our brain that’s responsible for rational reasoning just becomes non-functioning.
If workplace conflict is handled properly though, it’s actually a healthy element of work relationships. Effective conflict resolution is all about making sure that emotions don’t get bottled up, unleashed badly, or create a toxic work environment.
Some kinds of workplace conflict are commonly found in organisations:
- Leadership Conflict – All leaders are different, with different approaches. Perhaps teams are struggling to adjust to a new manager who is more direct and by the book than their more laid-back, flexible predecessor? Or one who bombards them with work messages during evenings and over weekends? It could be an employee who’s bitter about not receiving that promotion or pay rise. Maybe older peers are feeling frustrated dealing with a millennial manager, and feel they shouldn’t have been promoted? This is rather common. According to MIT professor Lawrence Susskind, disputes involving values tend to heighten defensiveness, distrust, and alienation.
- Interdependency-Based Conflict – Perhaps someone always delivers their work late and holds up another person. Or there’s someone in the sales team who’s annoyed that the finance lot are holding up their process and chance of success. Maybe blame-shifting frequently occurs. This can cause tension and fractures among teams.
- Personality Clashes – Different personalities all working together makes miscommunication likely, around actions, character and motives. Perhaps someone came off as short when they didn’t have the time to help a colleague. And resentment has built on both sides. There are always feelings and reasons behind actions, and what we perceive isn’t necessarily an accurate portrayal of who someone is.
- Work Style Differences – For example, some like working in a group, others work best alone. Employees and employers need to understand everyone’s different working styles. It’s important for managing workload and employee engagement. Also, for onboarding new employees.
- Task / Idea Conflict – Perhaps an employee disagrees with their boss about a particular way to handle a project. Or two salespeople disagree about whether or how to go for an account. Everyone has the same goal—to preserve relationships, be happy at work and fulfil objectives that keep a career and organisation thriving. This passion can cause friction when it comes to decision-making.
How do you deal with these workplace conflict situations? There are a few options:
- Do nothing, let feelings stew, and likely let passive aggressive comments and actions slip out – unfortunately, all too common within many organisations.
- Quit the job – the work equivalent of ghosting.
- Address it directly and clear the air – “I really respect your skills and value our relationship. Let’s talk about how we can work through this.”
Focus groups suggested that pressures on funding had increased work intensity and created more conflict-prone environments, where managers have less time and space to nip difficult issues in the bud. At Lumina Learning, we believe that meaningful personal growth helps people become more adaptable and build strong personal and workplace relationships.
During times of conflict, we are dealing with a lot of emotion: frustration, anger, fear, distrust. The key to creating a high performing team lies in really understanding those feelings. Productive conflict resolution is simply a case of active listening, agile learning, and respecting everyone’s individual emotions, perceptions, character, attitude, habits and styles.
Our innovative personality assessment, Lumina Spark, helps every employee to understand how their colleagues and leaders work and think. It measures 24 personality qualities to provide a unique and accurate portrait of who you are. No labels, no stereotypes. Just increased self-awareness of strengths and development areas, and heaps of uncovered potential.
Leaders need to fully understand their whole dynamic personality, too. So, Lumina Leader provides managers with a deep understanding of how their personality determines their natural leadership style, and how to adapt that style to meet the needs of their people and organisation. Lumina Leader 360 then shows mangers how others see them, to maximise strengths, remove limitations and add more value. Check out our article that discusses how managers can use our personality tools to have those difficult conversations with individuals or their team.
Lumina Leader Mandala with four leadership domains and sixteen leadership qualities
Paving the Way for Success
Proactive conflict resolution should be a key element of your company culture, in order to create a more positive and supportive work environment. One primed for innovation and success.
Research shows that people who know how to deal with conflict resolution effectively enjoy a much happier work life. It also nurtures more resilient and trusting relationships—we always feel closer to people when we’ve gone through something difficult together and come out the other side.
Our ground-breaking psychometric solutions provide a language that helps people work better together, so organisations can benefit from workplace conflict, and the diverse skillsets, experiences and ideas within teams. Teams who can see from different perspectives and express themselves in a productive manner. That’s the difference between workplace conflict that destroys, and workplace conflict that helps you achieve bigger and better outcomes.