Read full post: HR Best Practices for Handling Workplace Conflicts

HR Best Practices for Handling Workplace Conflicts

Conflict is natural in the workplace. It’s impossible to get on with everybody all the time. We all have our bad days, after all. However, when disagreements turn into arguments, hostility, or bullying, it’s time for HR to get involved.

You’ll need strong conflict resolution and problem-solving skills, as well as a hefty helping of empathy to guide your workers through these challenges.

If you’re looking for a guide on managing workplace conflict, you’re in the right place. This handy blog includes the technical definition of workplace conflict, some examples of the different types of conflict you might encounter, and handy conflict resolution strategies to help steady your ship.

What is Workplace Conflict?  

Workplace conflicts are any disagreements or differences in opinion in the workplace. It can be low-level, like experiencing creative differences or a disagreement on the best way to complete a task. However, it can also be high-level, which can include arguments, harassment, and reports of bullying. It’s important to deal with workplace conflict quickly to prevent escalation and mitigate its impact on individuals and the organisation as a whole.

Unresolved conflict puts a strain on the whole business. It makes workers feel uneasy, creates an unpleasant environment among teams, and can even impact overall productivity. Needless to say, resolving workplace conflicts isn’t just about supporting individual workers, it’s about maintaining a supportive and productive work environment for everyone. 

Different Types of Workplace Conflict  

There are lots of different types of workplace conflict. You’re most likely to come across:

  • Personality Clashes
    Personality clashes are one of the most common types of workplace disagreements. Sometimes people just aren’t each other’s cup of tea, and that’s ok. However, they still need to be respectful of one another and work together effectively. These conflicts can usually be handled pretty quickly, especially if the workers are reasonable.

  • Team Disagreements
    Team disagreements usually happen when there are disagreements in how a project should be approached, between team communication styles, or decision making processes. These types of conflict are not usually as straightforward and may need mediation.

  • Cultural Conflict
    Cultural conflict can happen when your teams come from different backgrounds, cultures, or counties. These differences bring about a difference in communication styles, values, or cultural norms which can cause conflict. This can lead to misunderstandings, bias, or stereotypes which can impact interpersonal relationships and collaboration. Dispelling these disagreements will need a careful approach of mediation and cultural education.

  • Ego Conflict
    Let’s not pretend this doesn’t happen. Ego clashes are different to personality clashes in that they usually stem from corporate politics or perceived attacks on an individual’s self-worth. They can be difficult to manage owing to the nuanced nature of these disagreements. 

  • Bullying and Harassment
    These are the most serious types of workplace conflict. Bullying and harassment is the repeated and intentional mistreatment, intimidation, or discrimination of a person or team. This can manifest in various forms, including verbal abuse, exclusion, threats, or physical aggression. This behaviour creates a hostile work environment, undermines morale, and can have serious consequences for the well-being and mental health of those affected. You need to deal with this type of conflict quickly and sympathetically to ensure you don’t allow a toxic work culture to fester. 

Conflict Resolution Strategies to Use with Your Team

If your team has a conflict you need to work through together, try utilising one of these 4 conflict resolution strategies. 

  • Mediation
    Mediation is a tried and tested method for conflict resolution. It involves sitting down in a room with the disagreeing parties, facilitating conversation between the two, and trying to find a way forward. Parties need to be respectful of one other, listen to each other’s point of view, and explore potential solutions collaboratively. 

The disagreeing parties don’t necessarily need to agree on the topic of the conflict, they just need to agree to move forward together, respectfully. Your role isn’t to agree or disagree with either party, but rather to act as a neutral mediator. Keep the conversation calm, ask thought provoking questions, and guide the discussion towards resolution. 

  • Role Reversal
    This can be a useful tactic in cases of minor disagreements. Rather than mediating the conversation or trying to find a middle man, ask the disagreeing parties to role play as one another. Ask thought provoking questions about why they feel the way they do, and how they feel they can move forward. Encouraging workers to step into one another’s shoes can help them see a different perspective and feel less caught up in their emotions. 

This method only works where both parties are respectful and self aware. Don’t be afraid to shut down the session if behaviour crosses a line or becomes unproductive. 

  • Define the Problem
    This is a strategy to use if you’re in the middle of mediation and don't seem to be making progress. Try asking both parties to define exactly what the issue is. Quite often, people get so caught up in the disagreement that the problem becomes the disagreement itself, and the actual root cause of the disagreement becomes secondary. 

Asking the disagreeing parties to re-define the problem will help refocus the conversation on the underlying issues at hand rather than the emotions surrounding the conflict.

  • Encourage Problem Solving
    While it is important to talk about the problems and what caused them, the ultimate goal is to resolve the issue. Ask workers to brainstorm potential solutions and come up with a solution together. Remind them to focus on finding a mutually beneficial outcome that addresses the underlying problem, not simply the disagreement. 

By shifting the focus from blame to problem-solving, you can empower your team to take ownership of the resolution process and work towards a positive outcome together.

Key Takeaways

  • Workplace disagreements are natural, but workplace conflict should be handled professionally and quickly. 
  • There are many different causes of workplace conflict including personality clashes, team disagreements, and cultural conflict to name a few. 
  • Mediation is the best tool for resolving workplace conflict. However, you could try using more creative strategies if mediation isn’t effective.

Manage Workplace Conflict with Plumm

Workplace disagreements are a natural part of working life. However, when they escalate into conflict, arguments, and event harassment, they have crossed a line and need to be managed. Handling workplace conflict is an important skill for HR professionals. You should be able to effectively manage personal disagreements, help workers get to the bottom or ego-based arguments, and effectively navigate cultural conflict.

If you’re looking for a tool to help you manage these processes, check out Plumm, an all-in-one HR and mental health solution for your business. With handy AI to do the heavy lifting and useful task lists, talent planning tools, and time off trackers, you’ll wonder how you ever coped without it!

Sign up for a free trial today.