No matter how good a manager you are or how well you have built your corporate culture, conflict is inevitable in any workplace.
Not only is it natural and expected when multiple employees from different backgrounds, perspectives and skills come together, but sometimes it is necessary. What is important, is how well you handle this conflict with others. Having a good problem solving approach is often an underestimated element of what it means to be a great leader, but it is one of the most critical. Handling conflict in the workplace incorrectly can create a devastating ripple effect for the whole organisation, so it’s an important skill to acquire and cultivate.
What is conflict management?
Conflict management is not just a fancy word to describe problem solving skills – it’s about teamwork, negotiation and respect. Simply put, it is the ‘practice of being able to identify and handle conflicts sensibly, fairly, and efficiently.’ While this skill may come naturally for some people, others may find it worth their while to engage in effective conflict management training. These programs can teach professionals from any industry to have difficult yet effective and respectful conversations, negotiate successful work outcomes, and step back and consider team objectives from different perspectives.
The cost of conflict to any workplace is very real. Factor in the following to see how damaging the incorrect way to handle conflict can be:
- Time lost
- Lowered job motivation and productivity
- Loss of investment in skilled employees
- Health costs
- Restructuring around the issue
- Conflict-incited theft, sabotage, or damage
At what cost would you be willing to reduce these issues?
The important thing to understand is that conflict management skills can be learnt. How well you handle disputes with other members of the team is largely dependent on your emotional intelligence. By tapping into this underrated superpower, you can learn to deal with conflict more effectively in the workplace.
What is emotional intelligence?
We often talk about IQ so much that we neglect the importance of emotional intelligence (EI). When you are emotionally intelligent, you’re better able to manage your emotions as well as read emotions in others and accurately gauge social situations and relationships around you. Being aware of your emotions and needs, and the impact that these have on others – and vice versa – can benefit any business. This is because individuals with high emotional intelligence are more effective in approaching and resolving conflicts than those with low EI.
If you want conflict management training to be effective, you need to focus on emotional intelligence. It’s a so-called superpower because it’s extremely difficult to take control and master your own emotions. It takes skill, practice, and effort to have high levels of EI but the good news is that these are skills that can be developed.
Emotional intelligence in the workplace is revered as it can:
- Increase team performance
- Improve decision making
- Decrease occupational stress
- Reduce staff turnover
- Increase leadership ability
- Promote positive mental health in the workplace
On the other hand, low EI behaviour can greatly impact a team. By the time an individual is lacking effective conflict management skills, the entire team may be suffering as a result. Just some of the factors that can negatively affect your workplace include behavioural issues, reduced productivity and teamwork, poor communication, weak leadership confidence, and damaged credibility.
Problem-solving techniques: tapping into your emotional intelligence
When you need to make a decision, navigate social situations or manage behaviour in the workplace, master these emotional intelligence components:
- Self-awareness: Be aware of your moods and emotions and the impact that these feelings can have on your thoughts and how you interact with others. Ask for feedback from others and respond effectively.
- Self-management: Stay on top of your reactions by slowing down and visualising outcomes. Suppress the urge to react, but make conscious choices about what to do next. Exert control over your behaviour by not letting your emotional reactions sabotage your outcome.
- Social awareness: Tune in to others. Perceive what they are feeling and thinking by picking up on their emotions – this is known as having empathy.
- Relationship management: Keep in mind how you react now will affect your relationship in the future. Maintain a broader perspective during conflicts to focus on your self-awareness, self-management and social awareness.
We know that building your EI skills will improve your ability to keep your emotions under control and connect with others – not just in business but in your personal life – so it’s important to use the right problem-solving strategies when issues arise. The benefits of training your team in conflict management will outweigh the initial costs involved when you invest in their emotional intelligence.