According to the BusinessDictionary.Com, the term 'conflict management' means:

"The practice of recognizing and dealing with disputes in a rational, balanced and effective way. Conflict management implemented within a business environment usually involves effective communication, problem resolving abilities and good negotiating skills to restore the focus to the company's overall goals."

This definition sums up the vital skill, but let's investigate strategies you can adopt to achieve successful conflict management skills at work and make your day to day activities as harmonious as can be.

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How To Manage Conflict In The Workplace

Communicate Verbally

We as humans are lucky enough to have the intellectual ability to communicate using a common language, so let's make sure we use our words to straighten out any issues or to keep people in the loop so as to prevent conflict arising. In fact, it's better to over-communicate than to not communicate well enough.

Good communication can help you move mountains whereas bad communication can leave you digging an infinite hole. When passing on important information, don't just rely on people to retain everything you have said. Follow up your conversation or presentation with an email highlighting the key points, which means that people have something solid to refer back to rather than relying on their memory (which could be slightly less reliable if they are overworked or stressed in any way).

Similarly, if you've mailed an alert around the team, then get up off your seat and discuss it with them to clarify any issues and ensure they understand where you're coming from.

It is better to over-communicate than the reverse..
Regularly getting up off our seats and talking face to face can reduce misunderstandings through bad communication. Photo on VisualHunt.com

Similarly, hoping that a colleague will sense or see that you are visibly annoyed and upset is a very childish approach to professional life. The best thing you can do for everyone involved is to air your concerns and discuss any issues right away, as it could all be a misunderstanding resulting from miscommunication, or lack of.

Listen To Others

Just as important as the act of speaking, listening can really help to bring members of a team together and feel more like they are working as one, on an equal par.

You should listen very carefully to those around you.

It may be that you've indirectly caused some kind of upset at work without even realising it, or as a result of unreliable gossip being spread by other team members, and therefore by listening to the facts and giving your events of the story could help to shut down any negative atmosphere and unwanted consequences. Though you may have questions, which you are entitled to ask, allow the other person to talk uninterrupted to let them get their point across with being aggravated.

You shouldn't only let your ears prick up when something is going down in the office, though. Be sure to be a team worker and listen to other people's opinions from the get-go and give people space to demonstrate their capabilities, ideas and processes without being shut down or ignored.

Compromise Or Meet Halfway

Conflict usually arises when two or more people with strong or differing opinions clash or collide. In this situation, it's very unlikely that one person will win without it being taken into the hands of a higher power. But do you really want to fight like kids in a playground until your leader steps in?

Since you are unlikely to mutually agree on something, and it's really not worth your while to keep fighting it out, you may have to settle on meeting halfway. If you both agree to disagree on the matter, neither of you wins or loses and you can go about your day as before without any intrusive atmosphere getting in the way of you or your team. Of course, if it is a matter of work that needs to be resolved then you may need to opt for one strategy or the other, and you might prefer to bring this to a vote in order to keep any conflict from surfacing.

Swallow your pride and shake it out.
Sometimes in life you have just got to agree to disagree. Photo on Visualhunt.com

Choose Your Battles

As above, if you and a colleague are butting heads over silly, insignificant things then it may be time to sit back and think to yourself "is it worth it?".

If no good can come from you and your co-worker battling it out, i.e. it won't benefit you or the workplace, then you should seriously consider walking away from the situation and saving your energy for a time when you really need to speak up.

It is nonsensical to argue over unimportant issues, so try to prioritise the areas of conflict and then make the effort to let the small things go.

How Keeping Conflict At Bay Can Benefit You

While most of the above are instinctive and come from maturity and respectfulness towards others, at times it can feel like hard work biting your tongue or always getting caught up in a situation whereby you have to meet someone halfway so as to not cause a scene in the workplace. So, is it worth putting in the effort to keeping your emotions at bay and not rocking the boat?

Experts say that minimal conflict during your working day will make you happier in general and make you enjoy your work, which of course makes sense. Who wants to work in a job where they are constantly feeling frustrated or uneasy alongside colleagues?

Here are just a few reasons why keeping conflict at bay can benefit you professionally, mentally and physically.

  • It can make work not feel like work at all: Ever heard the quote: "Choose a job you love, and you'll never have to work a day in your life." by Confucious? This saying proves that if you are happy enough in your place of work and doing the tasks that you do, then work can feel pleasurable, as though it is a hobby rather than a chore. If you have ever been in a position at work where you have hated heading into the office every day, then you'll know only too well the value of being comfortable and happy in your role. Hopefully, you have escaped this toxic environment, and are on track with greater prospects thanks to a love and passion for your work.
  • It can reduce your stress levels: Most people will admit to feeling under pressure at work from time to time, especially if they work in a competitive sales environment, have deadlines to meet or their team is simply understaffed and struggling to cope with workload. And since so many of us take this to heart and feel a huge sense of responsibility for our employer, this can very quickly lead to stress and anxiety which then spills into our home life. Avoiding conflict at work can greatly reduce the amount of negativity you feel surrounding your work, however, we are fully aware that conflict is usually the result of higher than normal tensions - it's a vicious circle! While some conflict is unavoidable, making the conscious effort to stay out of any uproar will help you to keep your sanity and remain more positive.
  • It can help you lead a healthier lifestyle: If you are finding that things at work are getting you down - constant bickering among the team, co-workers bullying one another, management undermining your responsibilities, ... - then it can be easy to come home of a night and not feel like doing anything except slump on the sofa. Work should not take over your life, it should facilitate life and enable you to do the things you want to do. For instance, getting stuck in a rut of working late and begrudging it means that you won't have the positive mindset to go home and cook a nutritious meal, meet your friends, bath your kids and so on. As we've discovered, the happier you are at work, the better your life will be in general.
Don't let tension at work eat away at you in your spare time.
Being happy at work can make you more positive about life in general. Photo on Visual Hunt

What's more, business owners need to be aware of placing a huge emphasis on conflict management in the workplace, not just leaving it up to their staff to work things out. Measures should be in place to control situations, no matter how big or small, enabling staff to reach out and ask for help as well as offering the right training and resources to do their jobs properly.

"To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace." - Doug Conant

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