Would you believe that conflict in the workplace is healthy? As much as we dislike having conflicts, an organization that is free of them is not geared toward growth. In the workplace, conflicts force individuals to re-evaluate their personal beliefs, their methods of completing tasks, and individual skill sets as well as the pros and cons of everyone's perspectives.
If handled professionally and objectively, the result of conflicts can be twofold: 1) more effective teamwork while working together to come to a resolution and 2) a more effective solution to the problem/task. As a supervisor, you need to learn the skills that will help you navigate conflict more effectively.
Avoiding conflict is nearly impossible. People don’t like to be wrong and many will hold their viewpoint until they’re either proven right or wrong. No matter what the problem is, the first step as a supervisor is to ensure you take the time to listen to both parties. Even if a solution seems obvious, rushing to resolve it can make one side feel like they have been left out of the decision-making process. A great supervisor will take the time to consider all options before providing a resolution that will last for a long time.
Have you ever received information, only to learn later that what you had received was incorrect? Assumptions can add insult to injury. Often, people make assumptions based on what they already know, think they know, or intend to know. These assumptions can cause resentment. Unnecessary conflict can be avoided with simple and clear communication. Start with establishing an open line of communication between the two parties. By fostering an environment of open and safe communication, your team will start to build a healthy work relationship where everyone is free to share their ideas.
By definition, empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. A supervisor should be able to see a conflict from someone else’s opinion and understand their needs and motivations. This is critical to effective conflict resolution. While not all people are born with natural empathy, it can be developed.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to read and understand your emotions, as well as another person's emotions. While you might be wondering why this is a skill that a supervisor would need to master, it is incredibly important. Emotional intelligence can prevent escalation. If you can effectively understand someone's viewpoint, you can learn to communicate without provoking them. By eliminating frustration and anger from the conflict, people are more likely to focus on solving the problem through compromise instead of being distracted by their emotions.
Typically resolving a conflict is difficult solely because the parties involved rarely stay focused on the conflict itself. Often, the conflict stirs up tension that has built up between the two parties over some time. It's very hard to then solve the conflict simply based on the historical bias that exists between both parties. As a supervisor, it is helpful to separate the conflict from those involved. Try not to focus on the people, but instead look at the problem itself.
It's very difficult for two parties to agree to terms if they are unhappy about it. As the supervisor, if you can remain positive throughout the process, you can keep moving forward. You will likely run into many roadblocks when trying to resolve a conflict, but you’re staying positive might be the catalyst for both parties to try and reach a resolution.