With many businesses finding it difficult to survive because of COVID-19, they can’t afford the additional obstacle of workplace conflict — which can lead to lower productivity and increased absenteeism.

It is normal for a workplace to experience conflicts, but inspiring leaders cannot allow these disruptions to hamper the work environment, productivity, and most importantly, employee morale.

Though good leaders should not act like gawking hawks, there are times when they must step in and take charge.

In other words, leaders need to be adept at conflict management. Otherwise, some workplace conflicts may get out of hand and cost businesses valuable time, money and resources.

What Is Workplace Conflict?

Simply put, workplace conflict is a disagreement among employees on work-related issues or differences in opinion, which can result in arguments and lost time and productivity. It’s important to note that 49% of workplace conflicts are due to personality clashes and egos.

While some conflicts are small and can be resolved quickly, other workplace disagreements can turn into something bigger. No organization is immune to workplace disagreements.

But not all conflicts hurt businesses. Some conflicts can help to bring positive changes to the workplace, which can eventually result in improved employee performance, increased productivity and increased revenue.

How Leaders Can Resolve Workplace Conflicts

Being a leader does not mean making lop-sided decisions just for the sake of ending a conflict. An organization’s employees should look to their leader in tough situations.

Leaders should not make hasty, biased decisions. They should display exemplary composure and rational thinking. Different leaders have different personalities, but not all of them are good at conflict management.

Let’s look at some valuable, proven tips that leaders can use while navigating workplace conflicts:

1. Identify the Root of the Problem

Leaders should first figure out the root cause of the conflict before taking further action. They should understand the cause and gravity of the conflict to find an effective solution. There will be times when the people involved will try to manipulate the cause to present themselves in a good light.

This is when a responsible leader has to read people’s behavior accurately and get the facts straight. Listen to both parties and absorb their version of the conflict. Let both parties feel that they’ve been heard. Give them enough space to tell you their side of the story.

2. Recognize the Difference of Opinion

Managers are leading a team of people who have different styles of working and different thought processes. They need to recognize this and try to understand differing points of view, which will help them better understand the cause of the conflict and work out a solution. Conflict resolution has many gray areas these days as the generation and cultural gap broadens at workplaces.

3. Be a Neutral Mediator

As mentioned before, while managing conflicts, a leader can give more weight to people with whom they are more comfortable. Some leaders are accused of making biased decisions just because they share a seemingly healthy relationship with a few employees. That said, conflict management is all about making decisions that are acceptable to both sides, but that does not apply to cases where one person is completely at fault.

Neither person should feel they’ve been treated unfairly. This would allow one party to raise the issue of office politics, which is the last thing you want. The leader should be a bridge between employees and help them find common ground. Though both parties disagree, the goal is to unite them to achieve common goals.

4. Establish Healthy Two-way Communication

Poor communication is one of the main causes of workplace conflicts. A good leader understands this fact and establishes a healthy, two-way communication culture within the organization. Employees should be encouraged to express their ideas, concerns and suggestions to the company’s leadership without inhibition. For this to happen, leaders must earn the trust of their workforce.

Office gossip should be avoided at all costs, because it hurts productive, straightforward conversations. Having one-on-one talks with employees can be a great way to receive employee feedback, which also allows senior management to get to know each employee better.

5. Take Steps to Improve Employees’ Mental Health

Mental health can be directly related to employees’ performance and conduct in the workplace. There are numerous ways in which you can try to improve employees’ mental health:

  • Providing access to mental health services.
  • Hosting fun events in the workplace.
  • Prioritizing work-life balance.
  • Offering paid vacations or time off to employees for physical and mental rejuvenation.

The Bottom Line

Workplace conflicts are inevitable, and conflict management is an ongoing process for any leader. Leaders should be aware of which conflict could turn out to be productive for your organization.

At the same time, it’s important to take steps to minimize disruptive conflicts that can threaten an organization’s progress. Remember that the best way to resolve workplace conflict is to identify the root cause, listen attentively to both parties and come up with a solution that satisfies both sides.