We Can’t Avoid Every Conflict at Work — So Here’s How to Get Through It

conflicts in the workplaceConflict is inevitable in life. At some point, something you do will irritate or aggravate someone you live or work with or see socially, and just as equally, you will be irritated and aggravated with someone else. When it’s a family member or friend, you likely can be frank with them, have a conversation, and work it out. It’s not always easy or fun, but there’s a personal element to those relationships that sometimes allows for easier remediation. When it comes to conflicts in the workplace, however, the path forward isn’t always as clear. Employers in the United States spend a little over two hours every week dealing with conflict — that’s over $350 billion salaried hours that are consumed by conflict, instead of positive productivity. So how can companies remedy this and bring harmony to the workplace and increased productivity as a result?

Solving Conflicts in the Workplace 
Every office is essentially a small space with a lot of personalities who need to work together to achieve results. Even if the majority of the work is largely independent, almost no office can get by without some kind of teamwork, collaboration, and assistance among the employees. Needless to say, workplace disputes can crop up.

It can be something as simple as bad communication, a gossipy work environment, or a disregard for the rules. And it can be as complex as performance issues, workplace discrimination or sexual harassment suits.

Either way, being well versed in conflict management and conflict resolution can go a long way towards solving whatever’s happening in your office. Unfortunately, 60% of employees have never had access to even basic conflict management courses, even though 95% of those who undergo the process say that the training helped them get through workplace conflict in a positive manner and find outcomes that are mutually beneficial to all parties involved.

And it serves the company well — organizations that have taken on conflict resolution training, such as mediation and arbitration, say that they’ve seen a reduction in litigation costs by as much as 50-80%! Plus, it reduces the amount of time managers or other employees need to spend trying to solve the conflict, instead of focusing on their own work.

What Options are There For Resolving Workplace Conflict? 
Workplace mediation and arbitration are two big processes for resolving conflicts in the workplace. With workplace mediation, the parties involved get together with a mediator to talk out their respective points of view about why the dispute is happening, any larger context, and to mutually find solutions together for the issue at hand. It’s a voluntary process and one that’s kept confidential.

With workplace arbitration, claims are submitted to be resolved by a private arbitrator and the decision is made by the arbitrator after the evidence has been presented. The ultimate decision is not a mutual one and may not be satisfactory to one or even both parties. Everything is settled outside of a public court.

How Does Leadership Impact Conflict Resolution? 
Ideally, the leaders at your company lead by example. Facilitating team leaders who are trained in conflict resolution provide a good example for everyone else and by demonstrating their ability to tackle tough subjects, it can empower others to do so as well. And, they’ll likely push for some kind of mediation training, so employees have the skills and knowledge to work through issues together.

Relational leadership can be especially impactful here. There are five main elements to relational leadership — inclusion, empowerment, purposefulness, ethical behaviors, and process orientation. Leaders who practice this style can often head off conflicts because of how they operate, and the way they ask others on their team to work as well.

A good leader should ideally be able to confidently mediate conflicts in the workplace and keep everything working as it should.

Conflicts in the workplace are more or less unavoidable, but knowing how to handle them can make a huge difference in the overall quality of life in your workplace and job satisfaction.