How to deal with a conflict in a team?

2017-03-14

Nowadays we can often see such situation: there are employees but there is not the team there. As a rule, the absence of the team is the result of conflicts between people. The problem of interpersonal relationships is one of the basic ones. It should be given more time and questions related to it cannot be resolved quickly. It's resolved through long work of a leader and subordinates. Given that the leaders are almost always busy with something more global, they can be too busy to deal with conflict. In this case, you might hire a psychologist from outside of the company. But let's talk about what can a leader do in order to prevent a conflict, resolve it, or benefit from it?

What is the conflict?

The first thing to understand is that conflicts are very useful and you should not be afraid of them. If there is a conflict in the team it means that it’s alive: people are not indifferent to their activities, and they are interested in keeping their positions. In this case, there is a good chance of creating an effective team. In addition, the conflict is a great channel to release the accumulated negativity. As every psychologist knows – one must not hold onto negative emotions. Of course, it is better not to shout out all of them at once at work. But if the employee could not contain him or herself then what to do?

First: minimizing the possibility of conflicts.

Generally, the first step on the way to minimizing conflicts is deliberate recruitment. The leader should think about the kind of employees he or she wants to see. Usually, the nature and the tendencies in the behavior of a person can be detected at the interview with the help of various tests. During the interview, it is also important to understand whether the candidate shares and accepts the goals, values, mission, and the regular workflow in the company. Find out what the candidate’s plans are for his or her work and the company’s development? How does he or she see the job? How can he or she be useful?

It is also important to familiarize the employee with the job responsibilities in details from the very beginning. Any abstraction can lead to the conflict. The more clarity there is in the work, the lower its probability.

Second: overcoming the obstacles

There are two kinds of obstacles: communicative and ones of perception.

Common communicative obstacles are the lack of understanding of goals of related departments or еру purposes of the employees in these departments. People don't tend to clarify and find out what their colleagues are occupied with, what problems and issues they solve, what difficulties they have, or how can they be useful. As a consequence, there is the distortion of information. Also, often in companies, there is an internal atmosphere of rivalry. People forget that they all work for a common cause and the overall result. Instead of sitting down at the negotiation table they compete, argue, and conflict.

Under the obstacles of perception, we mean the ability to listen and hear. Mainly, they are affected by the psychological characteristics of colleagues, for example, temperament and thinking.  

There are people who are focused on business, it is important for them to get everything done “quickly and efficiently". And there are people who are focused on relationships, for them, it is important to talk and to create a warm atmosphere. These two categories of employees speak "different languages". If it is not taken into account, all major needs of both parties will be ignored. You must also take into account the social differences, employees’ education, the differences in the vocabulary and lexicon, and different levels of knowledge about the subject matter.

Communication obstacles are mostly resolved thanks to the leader. His or her task is to explain to everyone what they do, to clearly define duties and responsibilities, to introduce the possibility of collective communication (briefings, meetings, feedback, individual meetings, corporate events), to rally the troops for the achievement of the common goal and result, and, at the end, to motivate the employees.

Overcoming the obstacles of perception is mostly employees’ task. Their desire to hear and listen to each other is the main tool.

Third: neutralization of conflicts

Imagine that the first stage was missed, the team was already formed, and the obstacles were overcome, but there is a conflict. In this case, you first need to understand whether there are the desire and motivation from the employees to resolve the conflict and if there is a purpose for which these relations are necessary. This prerogative remains with the leader – he or she must show the team the importance and effectiveness of positive interaction. The main task is to unite and inspire their common purpose and goal.

Also, it is necessary to take individual characteristics of personality into account. Understanding and acceptance of these features by every team member and knowledge of the "effective approaches" to a colleague, a subordinate, or the head is a qualitative basis to ensure that the conflict will sooner or later be resolved.

There are things that are important for both superiors and for subordinates. It is the skill of conflict resolution, the so-called "reconciliation":

- Taking responsibility: an apology, expression of regret for past behavior, taking personal responsibility for part of the problem.

- The search for solutions: compromising, looking for win-win solutions.

- Adoption of opponent’s opinion: expressing the understanding of the other, recognition of the legitimacy of the point of view of another, the expression of good feelings, a request for honest feedback.

- An explanation of motives: disclosure of needs, thoughts, feelings, and motives.

Responsibilities of the head during the conflict:

- Call the subordinates on a personal conversation and try to objectively assess the source of the conflict, hear and take note of the point of view of each of the conflicting parties.

- You can try to create a dialogue between the conflicting parties with the participation of the leader and discuss the complaints in a civilized manner.

- Be sure to give a chance to emotional outbursts. You can do it directly or use more creative methods: paintball, bowling, quests, or other corporate competitions.

- Have a sense of humor and be able to "mirror" any conflict in a positive way, with irony and wisdom. 

In any case, it is worth remembering that we are all human and we have human desires, specific character traits, and ambitions. Taking this into account allows us to make a breakthrough to a positive relationship, even if the main contradiction is not resolved. Getting angry is a normal protective reaction of the psyche. It can be very difficult to take the initiative for reconciliation when the other side is wrong, but if we do, it becomes a win-win situation.

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