Destructive conflicts in the workplace can lead to absenteeism, productivity loss, mental health issues, grievances and turnover. According to recent data from The Conference Board of Canada, this costs the Canadian economy almost $50 billion a year. The losses from these conflicts can carry over for a lengthy period if left unchecked.
In a memorable conflict management seminar I once held, a courageous Project Manager bravely posed the question: “How do you rebuild rapport with an employee after voices were raised and feelings were hurt? Working together has felt awkward since and I just want to go back to how it was.”
The truth of the matter is, relationships in the workplace aren’t that different from relationships outside the workplace. The human condition is a complicated one and even though time heals all wounds, we know that things won’t easily go back to how it was for this Project Manager.
“We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them” – Albert Einstein
Time helps us reflect with more clarity and relieve emotional reactivity and defensiveness from conflict, so I asked this Project Manager to take some time for self-development and consider these questions before he starts to rebuild with his employee.
- What kind of manager are you?
- What kind of manager do you want to be?
- What kind of manager does your team need you to be?
All managers should remember that there isn’t just one way of managing people. Successful talent management styles are flexible and adaptive. At Imagine HR, we pride ourselves in coaching leaders from all walks of life to develop their very own set of management skills from their personal experience. It all starts from recognizing your baseline, setting your goals and adapting to the people around you. During coaching, we reiterate that team relationships are fragile and negative perspectives can pollute that dynamic quickly. Once a sense of trust, security and respect disappears between people, it takes tremendous time and effort to reconstruct these important aspects of teamwork back into the relationship. Here are 6 steps to facilitate your own conversation and rebuild from workplace conflict.
- Plan for the conversation. Think about what you learned in retrospect? How would you have handled things differently before and during the conflict? Where did things go wrong and how could you have made a difference? Write your answers down.
- Ask for permission to revisit topic. Approach the person you had a conflict with and express that you have spent some time thinking things over. Ask if they would be open to hearing your reflections.
If they say no, it means they need more time to pass. You can complete step 3 and end the conversation by letting them know you’d like to talk once they are ready.
If they say yes, you can share your insights and use phrases such as “I should have….” or “I should not have…”
- Apologize. This is the most essential olive branch to make peace with conflict. To admit to others and yourself that you could have done things differently.
- Identify the areas you will work on in the future. Use phrases such as “I am learning to be better in………” and “I’d like to work on being …….”
- Ask for feedback. Learn from their perspective by asking how they think you could have done things differently. Use phrases such as “I hope you would share your thoughts with me on………” and “I encourage you to give me feedback about….”
- Rebuild teamwork by asking for help. Recognize that you will need their help to continue to develop. Express that it’s a team effort to learn to be better at working together. Use phrases such as “I hope you will help me in becoming better at……” or “you play an important role in helping me develop more in…..”
The most common causes of conflicts in the workplace (and in most relationships) stem from:
Incompatible values & differing opinions
Disappointment & misplaced trust
Mismatched personality & ego clashes
Stress & burnout
Don’t let these barriers prevent you from constructive relationships. We partner with managers to mediate conflicts, foster stronger teamwork and move forward from incidents in the workplace. At Imagine HR, we also provide coaching to professionals who are facing conflicts in the workplace or struggle with difficult relationships at work.