Quality business leaders always think about the next challenge ahead. These forward-thinking visionaries can envision potential problems down the road before they ever arrive. When issues like this become visible, they can be adequately addressed and put to rest. It is necessary to continue to improve your company and create the kind of place where people love to come to work. One thing you can do today to make your business a better setting is to reduce conflict and tension between co-workers.
How Conflict Creeps Into the Workplace
Every employee that sets foot inside a workplace comes with their own expectations, beliefs, opinions, and more. Organizational diversity can be a positive asset that can make the company more competitive. On the flip side, it can create tension between individual employees. Decisions made by small business owners can also cause conflict between their co-workers. Some of the most common ways that conflict makes its way into the workplace include the following:
- Personality Clashes – As previously mentioned, co-workers who bring a clashing set of expectations and beliefs can cause significant tension among themselves.
- Unrealistic Expectations – Business owners like yourself want to get the most out of their employees. There is nothing wrong with that. However, you must ensure you are not pushing the envelope too far when setting expectations. According to surveys, we are currently in a period of near-record-high levels of burnout. Thus, you must ensure you don’t stretch your workforce too thin during this time. It is vital to provide employees with personal time to themselves that they can use to recharge. Everyone needs some time to rest and recover from their work.
- Business Values/Mission – Sometimes, employees within a company don’t necessarily feel like their beliefs align with the company’s values and mission. They might not have realized it when they first took the job, but it might become more apparent with time. This misalignment can also cause tension within the business. It is crucial to evaluate the company’s mission and ensure it is still on track with its goals and vision.
These are a few of the problematic areas that companies have noted sometimes cause conflict between employees and the company and in-between employees as well.
4 Ways to Polish Your Communication Skills and Reduce Conflict
The only way to get past specific conflicts and issues is to ensure you are an effective communicator. People need to know where you stand on issues and what they can do to have their voices heard. This is why small business owners must think about sharpening their communications skills.
1) Don’t Allow Issues to Fester
Everyone is always busy, and there is no getting around it. However, while there is an incentive to allow problems to slide off for another day, you should avoid giving in to that temptation. Address conflicts and issues immediately to put them behind you and move on with getting your work done. Businessnewsdaily.com explains:
When a conflict arises among your team members, it should be resolved quickly. Instead of ignoring or avoiding conflict, accept it and work toward addressing it immediately.
Addressing issues head-on and working hard to come to an agreeable solution to the problem is by far the best solution. Doing so shows your workforce that you are listening to their concerns and that you take them seriously.
2) Improve Your Active Listening Skills
Just because you hear words come out of someone’s mouth does not mean you truly hear what they say. The Harvard Gazette reports that people’s minds are on something other than the immediate task for almost half their waking hours. Being frequently distracted like this means that you are not likely absorbing the information being freely given to you presently. That is unacceptable within a business environment.
Active listening is the process of hearing the words spoken to you and actively figuring out the true intent and meaning behind what is being said. It involves the following techniques:
- Allowing yourself to be fully present in the conversation
- Asking open-ended questions to get more information from the speaker
- Holding back on judgment or advice to the speaker
- Reflecting on what has just been said to you (shows that you were listening)
- Practicing good eye contact
- Summarize any agreements, commitments, or important takeaways to ensure everyone leaves on the same page.
All of these are signs to the speaker that you are following what they are saying and understand the intention behind their words. They also prove that you have enough respect for the person speaking to give them your full attention in this way.
3) Recognize That Differences Aren’t Always a Bad Thing
It isn’t a bad thing that people have personality differences. It can be leveraged within a business to create a more diverse workplace and reach out to customers from more diverse backgrounds. Just because two people don’t necessarily see the world in the same way, it doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. If anything, it allows learning more about each other and lets you discover that the world is bigger than you might have imagined.
4) Consider a Role Playing Approach
Sometimes the best way to settle a source of conflict is to take an unorthodox approach. This approach is why some business owners use a role-playing strategy to help put themselves more into the mindset of an employee with a conflict.
This approach requires that you ask the employee with whom their conflict is. The next step is to play the role of yourself or the individual with whom you have a conflict. You ask them to approach the issue from the vantage point of the other individual involved in their dispute. Flipping the script in this way may open their eyes to some of the reasons the other party has a dispute with them. It may encourage them to see the world in a new way. Although this approach isn’t for everyone, you should keep it in your back pocket for when it comes in handy.
These are only a handful of strategies. You can use these to sort out your disputes, improve the quality of dialogue between yourself and your employees, and make your place of business the most welcoming workplace.
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This article does not constitute legal advice, and there are subtle variations in employment law as it pertains to this topic, depending on where your business operates. It is strongly suggested that you seek consultation or legal counsel before making policy decisions.