you are not alone.
Conflict exists in every workplace. Sometimes conflict can be good because it forces people to consider other perspectives. Oftentimes, however, the conflict has negative consequences on work and relationships.
Take a look at the insights of Randstad’s latest Workmonitor research to help you understand Australian workers' different drivers and preferences, to help you build better relationships with colleagues at work.
considerations for viewing conflict
Conflicts can be between two or more people. Disputes often involve a disagreement, whether big or small. The everyday situations that cause friction in the workplace include group projects, differing viewpoints, and issues that make everyone on edge.
differences amongst the ages
Conflict can arise because we are all unique individuals. We all have our own sets of attitudes, ideas and experiences that make us who we are and impact our actions.
This is complicated further by the reality of a multigenerational workforce, with workers as young as 18 or 21 and seniors as 65+ potentially working on the same team. It is essential to acknowledge that everyone has different ideas based on their life experiences.
Our Workmonitor research, for example, found that most younger workers value remote or hybrid work situations because they value a work-life balance. Older workers, in contrast, are more likely to want to collaborate in person and value job security. These can potentially be two competing ideas that can come into conflict.
For example, nearly half of Latin American workers surveyed for the report said they would quit a job if there was no work-life balance, compared to only 28% of North Americans. While different age groups may value certain aspects of a job, culture also plays a significant role.
Diversity in the workplace means diversity in viewpoints. This is crucial to an organisation’s success, as it must find ways to value and balance different views and approaches to work.
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3 steps towards conflict resolution
Many people respond to conflict quickly. Do you avoid confrontation? If so, you’re probably in the majority. It’s easier to move on. Conflict can fester, however, and create more significant problems if it isn’t addressed.
Here are three steps to guide you through to conflict resolution.
Stop talking. Remove yourself from the situation if possible. Don’t storm out, but rather ask calmly to take a break. This gives you the mental and physical space to think before you react or respond.
Don’t let the pause button hold too long. If the conflict seems small, give everyone 5 to 10 minutes to breathe. Use that time to come up with a plan and work through the competing idea.
If the conflict is more significant, consider parking the discussion for a few hours or a day so everyone can cool down. Once this happens, everyone will reflect on their perspectives and potentially naturally have ideas for how to resolve the conflict.
first, think about the diversity in your group.
- Is there age or cultural differences?
- What unique backgrounds and experiences are included?
This reflection helps remind you of each player's value and gives insight into how each person may approach this situation from a different perspective.
next, think about the problem.
For example, let's say your team is arguing about which charity your company should support during the festive season. Roy wants to help a toy program for children because that is what your company has done in the past. You want to support a local food bank because it's easy to donate canned goods, and there is considerable pressure on food banks during Christmas. Maria wants to contribute to a cancer charity because she is a cancer survivor.
It might look, at first glance, that the conflict is which charity to donate to. Ultimately, that is the project goal. The conflict, however, is actually in your values.
Roy might value routine. You might value ease of participation. Maria might value her experience. Are any of these wrong? No. But the conflict is about values, not about the charity itself.
finally, think about a way to solve the problem.
In this example, perhaps you ask the team to each come prepared to talk for two minutes about their given charity and why it's the best choice for your company to support. This gives everyone an equal opportunity to put their perspectives forward and shows respect for their contribution.
- Let everyone know that you will vote at the end of the meeting and that you can only select one.
- Remind the team that all these charities are great individually to support, but the common goal is to find one that the team can help.
Notice that “act” is the third step. It’s not the first or even the second. Too often, people act without considering differing values or what the conflict is actually about.
Once you’ve taken the time to reflect, and allowed everyone to share their perspective and respect their contributions, now is the time to act.
Find a way to reach a consensus.
In our example, a team vote is taken to find which charity most of the team supports. Once you’ve reached an outcome, make a plan to move forward with your decision.
not all conflicts find a resolution
All you can do is try. Not all conflicts find a resolution.
In the previous example, let’s say your team votes to support a cancer charity. Roy might still be upset because this is out of his routine. You might feel uncomfortable because it’s harder to find ways for everyone to participate.
Conflict resolution involves compromise, which doesn’t mean everyone gets their first choice.
It means everyone can live with the outcome.
when to get help
Depending on your job, you may not be the right person to handle all conflicts.
While it is best to resolve the conflict directly with the person or persons in disagreement, bringing in a third party is sometimes necessary.
- Bring in a supervisor who is neutral about the subject.
- Consider bringing in someone who has no authority over any team members so that everyone feels comfortable sharing their perspectives and feels they will get a fair hearing.
Of course, if issues arise that require a supervisor to make a decision, ask them for help. Know that you are not responsible for resolving every conflict. You are responsible for valuing others and encouraging an environment that respects all viewpoints.
Don’t hesitate to bring in outside expertise to help you manage and resolve conflicts when you need it.
Learn more about managing conflict in the workplace.