Disagreements at work must be resolved. Good conflict management identifies causes, guides solutions and measures to prevent new situations from impacting productivity and results. Conflict management definition
Human relationships are complex. No matter how well structured the dynamics of a company, problems can occur and conflict management can become necessary.
Surely you don’t want to wait for a conflict to arise and then think about how to handle the situation, do you?
Although each problem requires specific attention, knowing the best strategies to respond to conflicts is essential to avoid having a large impact.
In this post, we will tell you about the role of management in the face of divergences and related problems that can arise within a company.
What is conflict management
Conflict management in organizations represents the set of practices adopted to maintain or recover harmony among employees. Conflict management definition
In addition, even though it seems to be a movement that starts only when a conflict actually occurs, this management also serves to prevent problems of this type.
Conflicts are natural in human relationships, although they can be avoided or become more frequent depending on the environment and circumstances.
Different opinions and personalities, as well as factors that impact individuals and groups — such as miscommunication or the urgency to achieve a goal — can create conflicting situations.
When you wonder what conflict management is, understand that we are talking about taking actions that resolve disagreements and prevent problems from affecting employee productivity.
The importance of conflict management
What we just mentioned about preventing conflicts from affecting productivity is already a good indication of why this is all important, right? Based on that, there is more to be said.
Conflicts are natural in human relationships and, therefore, they are not necessarily what dictate the course of things, but the way in which these conflicts are managed.
What we mean is that the conflict itself is not the most important factor, because it is the management that determines what the impact of the situation will be . Conflict management definition
Poor or non-existent management can make room for a simple conflict to gain greater proportions and continue to have repercussions for a long time, affecting an increasing number of people.
On the other hand, good conflict management is able to minimize the negative impacts, and can even help those involved to extract some learning from the situation.
And why does all this matter? Because it directly affects the business and its success. Organizations are made, first and foremost, by people. If there is not a good relationship between them, the result of the work tends not to be good either.
Human beings are complex and simply waiting for disagreements to resolve is not a good business strategy .
Thus, conflict management is important because it ensures that the organization has professionals prepared to intervene in the best possible way during the management of a crisis .
And speaking of crisis management, we talked a little about this subject in the seventh episode of Tangerino Talks . Check it out and clear your doubts!
As a result, problems do not gain greater proportions than they should, squabbles are undone or at least mitigated, and the scenario can remain favorable to teamwork and a collaborative culture .
What can cause conflicts
A conflict is what occurs when there is incompatibility of thoughts or conduct between two or more people and a positive consensus is not reached.
Within the limits of what is acceptable, conflicts can result in a clash of ideas that eventually becomes more heated and is capable of generating indisposition among agents. Conflict management definition
Based on this, it is possible to think of a series of situations capable of triggering a conflict, but we will present some examples. Look:
- different personalities that don’t fit together;
- absence of clear communication ;
- excessive competition in the work environment;
- lack of resources necessary for work;
- changes that cause tension (such as the unexpected dismissal of one or more colleagues ).
To deepen your understanding, we need to clarify that there are different types of conflict that a company and its HR may have to deal with. Follow up!
Internal conflict is one that happens within the company. Here come the personal and interpersonal levels.
- personal conflict : it has to do with the way the person deals with himself and that can lead him to experience a high degree of stress that can create the opportunity to generate conflicts.
An overly stressed employee can be hostile towards colleagues and trigger a problem from there;
- interpersonal conflict : in turn, the personal level conflict is one that occurs between two or more people who are the main focus of conflict management. Conflict management definition
It is worth mentioning that this situation can also happen between teams, creating a situation of clash between one sector and the other, for example.
This is usually the most challenging type of conflict to deal with because, at least in theory, it involves people who work for common goals , that is, who “play together”.
This is especially where the importance of conflict management is highlighted, because identifying the root of the problem can be difficult. As if that were not enough, the impacts of this type of situation can be difficult to measure.
Here, it is necessary to say that HR needs to be prepared to investigate. In this regard, let’s take an example based on a situation you’ve probably seen when you arrive at a store.
In some establishments, vendors are instructed to approach everyone who passes through the door. Have you ever witnessed a kind of dispute to decide whose turn it was to answer?
When it’s not just a lack of organization, this type of conflict can hide a general feeling of worthlessness . Those who dispute the sales commission probably understand that they do not receive a fair salary.
Thus, HR needs to go deeper than simply trying to understand if there is enmity between those involved or if it is necessary to adopt a more effective organization system.
With this in mind, understand that conflicts can be analyzed from two more perspectives:
- rational conflict : it is one that originates from a disagreement directly related to the work, as the most appropriate way to conduct a project; Conflict management definition
- Emotional conflict : it has to do with relationship issues between those involved. In companies where management is not adequate , this type of conflict can arise from a past situation that has not been properly resolved.
On the other side are external conflicts that can also be identified as organizational conflicts.
We are talking about a situation that results from constant changes in organizational dynamics . Something that is sometimes influenced by external factors.
A clearer example of this situation is a problem that arises from the clash with another company or even with the government itself.
The impacts of conflict at work
Knowing all these ways of defining or understanding a conflict helps to understand that we are talking about situations that can have complex consequences .
It is with this in mind that we want to share with you the impacts that unresolved disagreements can have at work. Check it out:
- worsening of the organizational climate;
- low productivity ;
- difficulty hitting targets;
- increase in resignation requests ;
- weakening of the employer brand;
- difficulties in the relationship with stakeholders;
- inability to achieve business objectives.
Next, we create a line of reasoning that will help you understand how all these factors are connected to the absence of efficient conflict management and how they connect with each other.
A conflict can result in enmities. Professionals who need to communicate daily may avoid this contact or not do it clearly. Something that opens the door for more mistakes and new misunderstandings.
The situation may or may not lead colleagues to take sides because they understand that this or that one is right and this can intensify the effects of the conflict.
Whether between two or more people, the problem can grow every day until it significantly impacts the organizational climate .
A scenario like this tends to jeopardize the achievement of goals, which can impact the company financially, compromise organizational behavior and delay the consolidation of business objectives.
Going further, the combination of bad weather, lack of conflict management, and low morale from unmet goals can make professionals decide to leave their jobs .
As a result, the organization may face high employee turnover and its costs, including those linked to the weakening of the employer brand .
This issue also affects the company’s ability to retain talent, which weakens it in the face of its market and makes the organization less competitive .
In addition to impacting employees, this whole situation can affect the company’s relationship with its suppliers, customers and other stakeholders.
The role of managers in conflict management
Remember that, right after defining what conflict management is, we indicated that it is something that happens even to prevent misunderstandings.
With this in mind, consider that the role of managers is, first of all, to identify the demands of employees to create a friendly work environment.
Faced with a perceived conflict, the person responsible for management needs to act neutrally to avoid escalating the dispute. Knowing this, you can assume five different roles depending on the circumstances, see:
- firefighter : used to calm tempers and give basic guidelines to resolve current conflicts, such as discussions that go beyond the limits of appropriate;
- mediator : in conflict management, there must be someone to bridge the gap between the people involved in the problem, helping them to communicate properly in search of solutions. Conflict management definition
Thus, there is the role of the mediator who is also concerned with preventing the situation from creating a relationship of enmity that could reverberate later;
- conciliator : it is the role assumed by the manager who realizes that it is his responsibility to seek solutions based on the common interest and share them with those involved in the conflict;
- arbitrator : it may be that the person responsible for conflict management needs to intervene when the conversation between the parties does not result in an agreement.
In these cases, the role of the arbitrator exists so that the parties are heard and receive equal treatment in a process that leads to a solution;
- evaluator : in turn, the evaluator steps in to identify the reasons for conflicts, whether they are people or factors that impact people.
It is also your responsibility to analyze ways of dealing with the issue, including thinking about the proper conduct for interpersonal relationships.
How to implement conflict management in 11 steps
Now that you know about the manager and his role in conflict management, we can move on to implementation.
There is no formula, which makes it possible for your company to develop its own process. However, we have some points that are important for everything to work out. Follow up! Conflict management definition
1. Consider the organization’s values
Defining a company’s mission, vision and values is much more than a mere formality. It is on these definitions that the organization must base each of its decisions .
Thus, the concepts need to be well designed and known by everyone who is part of the company’s day-to-day activities. Something that will even help you define how the organization sees and responds to each type of conflict.
2. Know your team
To do good conflict management, you need to know the people you will be dealing with.
This can be done either through a simple approximation or through the application of behavioral profile tests and others.
The idea is to know how each employee perceives a situation to know which approach is most appropriate to help him deal with a conflict.
3. Facilitate communication at work
The lack or failures in communication can give rise to conflicts and make their resolution more challenging.
Strategies that favor clear communication between people in a team and between professionals and their leaders are necessary.
When adopted, they help to create an environment that avoids disagreements and ensures more openness to healthy debates .
4. Identify the problems
Remember the investigation we mentioned was up to HR? Well, with the help of leaders, the sector needs to find ways to identify what causes conflicts.
This is because it is not enough to appease tempers, it is necessary to deal with the source of the problem to prevent the situation from becoming a constant.
Keep in mind that a problem will not always be noticed at first. As soon as its existence is confirmed, however, it is advisable to assess the situation, including in order to understand the stage of the conflict. Look!
Latent conflict is one that remains hidden and has not yet been noticed by the team . For this reason, it becomes the target of preventive actions by HR and management.
It is necessary, for example, to create norms that aim to avoid certain behaviors and situations, also preventing the evolution of the conflict. Conflict management definition
In turn, the perceived conflict is one that is already affecting those involved, but without taking on greater proportions .
We are talking about problems that have not yet been noticed by others due to the absence of explicit actions.
An example? Just think of colleagues who have noticed a certain animosity between them that makes them less willing to socialize with each other, but who have never had an argument.
Going further, the conflict felt is one that affects those involved in a deeper way. Thus, it starts to cause negative feelings such as stress, irritability or dissatisfaction.
Following the evolution of conflict levels, the one that really manifests appears next.
After those involved realized the problem, became affected and emotionally impacted, eventually the situation comes to a head.
The situation starts to generate behaviors that affect the organizational climate and, consequently, impact the entire team.
At this point, conflict management becomes urgent to avoid harmful consequences for the future of the business.
5. Listen to employees
Sometimes, both to understand and to guide the end of a conflict situation, it is necessary to understand what ails each person and then guide them in the best way to an agreement.
In fact, listening is important so that, even before HR or management intervenes, employees understand that they can report their issues without being ignored.
A strategy that tends to indicate possible latent conflicts and to act before the situation escalates.
6. Bet on calm and tranquility
It is natural that some conflicts also cause stress in those who need to manage conflicts. However, those who do not know how to keep calm in the face of situations do not fulfill this responsibility well .
Communication becomes much less effective when all parties are stressed . In addition, whoever generates a conflict needs to set an example.
7. Negotiate solutions and deadlines
This strategy follows the idea of fairness that we have already presented and aims to create a way forward that is good for all involved. Thus, it is possible to avoid that regrets remain.
In addition, it may be necessary to establish a deadline for resolving the conflict. If we talk about divergences originating in the way of executing a process, for example, the new chosen path needs a deadline to become the default.
8. Focus on the problem and not the people
Another point is that conflict management needs to focus on the problem and not the people.
Of course, it may be necessary to give direct guidance to each stakeholder and, sometimes, do this individually and privately, in the form of feedback .
However, when mediating a situation, it is necessary to understand the problem and, to explain this better, we brought an example of very simple conflict management.
Faced with a difference of opinion about how something should be done, it is better to ask “how do you think this process should be carried out?” than saying “why do you think so-and-so is doing wrong about this?”.
9. Bet on diversity
Conflicts tend to arise in the face of difficulty in dealing with differences. Realize that the difference itself is not the cause of the problem.
Thus, investing in cultural and general diversity in the work environment makes the company count on more plural ideas in its day-to-day .
This ends up becoming an incentive for more open minds and minimizing opportunities for discriminatory behavior in any situation.
10. Reinforce positive behaviors
Motivation is one of the keys to avoiding conflict by highlighting positive attitudes and behavior patterns.
This is because people with these profiles are not usually “targets” of conflict management. Thus, they end up serving as inspiration for others.
Also consider highlighting conduct that is in line with the organizational culture and its mission, vision and values. This strategy helps to reinforce to the team what is expected by the company.
11. Identify opportunities in each conflict
You’ve certainly heard the cliché that it’s possible to get something positive out of every challenge you face.
This may not be a foolproof idea, but thinking this way is useful for conflict management. We’ll talk more about that later.
Turning conflict into something positive
In the day-to-day of a company, as well as in the personal life of each being, problems can be a good source of learning and an invitation to necessary changes .
Organizations are made by people and, especially because of this, they need to evolve. The movement to learn and change is related to the professional maturity of the employees and to the degree of maturity of the company itself. Conflict management definition
Remember the explanation about latent conflicts? Even at the stage where they have not yet been noticed by the team, conflicts can indicate the need to adopt something new.
For that, however, it is necessary that a good conflict management enters the scene. Otherwise, opportunities for evolution are not identified or, when identified, do not result in action.
Keeping all this in mind is favorable because it makes the company more open to change. Something that contributes to a greater exchange of ideas that can have benefits ranging from improving the climate to a greater level of innovation .
This organization’s attitude of transforming conflict into something positive is capable of influencing the behavior of employees to the point of making them more prepared to deal with problems.
With all this, conflict management can be understood as a tool that guarantees a good environment and that, due to its impact, has strategic consequences for the organization.
Good practices in conflict resolution and management
Based on everything you’ve learned so far, you already know how to do good conflict management, at least in theory.
To help even more, we have prepared guidelines aimed at good practices that should be sought by your company. Conflict management definition
Development of negotiation skills
Whoever is the person or persons responsible for conflict management, behavioral training to improve negotiation skills is welcome.
Often, this role does not belong to HR, which has specialists in people management, and can be in the hands of leaders. For this reason, guiding them on active listening, on how to dialogue and respond to each situation is important.
What we want is that a conflict does not leave a gap for other related ones. This depends on a good response, which is even necessary so that those involved do not lose respect for the leadership .
Commitment to proactiveness
There are several signs that can indicate the possibility of problems, in general, or of latent conflicts.
At the beginning, we said that a conflict can arise from personal or interpersonal issues and, knowing that, there is no need to wait for a disagreement to materialize .
A change in behavior, such as more frequent delays, for example, may be linked to a lack of motivation, which, in turn, has to do with an animosity that is about to be felt.
The perception added to the proactivity of investigating and acting makes the difference for a more efficient conflict management.
Creating a conflict management system
In closing, creating a system can be quite useful to avoid problems and make them easier to solve.
Consider measures like:
- make assessments on the level of satisfaction with the work environment;
- keep the rules that guide the execution of processes up-to-date and indicate the conduct expected on a day-to-day basis;
- think of training and development programs for a collective evolution to avoid feelings of devaluation;
- establish communication channels open to complaints and suggestions;
- do behavioral mapping to get to know employees better and assemble different teams, but with profiles that fit well;
- bet on a recruitment process that takes cultural fit into account .