Managing Conflict in the Workplace: Some Frequently Asked Questions

Managing Conflict FAQsQ. What is conflict?
A. Conflict is a need by one party that is not met by another. That need can be physical or emotional and may not be apparent to the second party.

Q. Does conflict matter?
A. Yes, conflict is an essential ingredient of our daily lives. The key to being able to manage conflict is to use it to drive innovation and development while preventing damaging conflict.

Q. How does conflict manifest itself?
A. In managing conflict at work, it is important to understand that every individual is different. As a general rule:

  • friction, tension and competition are usually healthy signs
  • withdrawal and silences indicate you have a problem
  • avoidance, anger and blocking behaviour is bad
  • aggression and threats means it has turned toxic.

Q. How soon should I start managing conflict?
A. Conflict usually starts small and grows. The sooner you start to manage conflict the easier it is to deal with and turn to the individuals’, group’s or company’s advantage.

Q. What skills are involved in managing conflict?
A. You need four essential skills:

  • a good level of self-awareness. This will help you read others’ emotions
  • an understanding that conflicts revolve around emotions and perception
  • the ability to engage and understand other people’s viewpoints
  • the patience to help parties find their own solution rather than directing your own (highly logical to you) solution!

Q. Are there any useful techniques for managing conflict?
A. Yes.

  • Listening and showing people you are genuinely listening is critical in the management of conflict, as is showing them you understand their particular view
  • be impartial and non-judgemental
  • challenge and confront the reality of their view
  • give them what you can when you can and work to find a solution that is good enough
  • don’t be afraid to ask for impartial, third-party support

Q. Who should manage conflict?
A. In principle, every manager and leader should be able to manage conflict. In practice, few are trained in, or equipped with, these skills. All individuals can improve their competency with training, advice and mentoring.

Please contact our team if you are curious about conflict management and how it can turn your organisation around.