Essential Strategies for De-escalating Workplace Conflict

two employees arguing with each other

Workplace conflict can be incredibly costly in more ways than one. Not only does it affect your workers, but it can also impact your company’s productivity. Here are some reasons it’s crucial to preserve a peaceful environment and good camaraderie among your employees:

  • Studies show that employees in the United States spend about two to three hours every week dealing with conflict, which amounts to about $359 billion in paid hours across the country.
  • It demoralizes the people in your team and causes them to focus on less important tasks when they could be spending all their energies and resources on their core responsibilities.
  • Workplace conflict does no good for your company’s brand reputation.

If you want to avoid these negative consequences, your company needs to learn the value and practice of conflict management in healthy ways. Here are some pointers for de-escalating conflict at work before they get worse.

Mitigate potential conflicts before they even arise

Prevention is better than cure, even in workplace conflict management. Here are some pointers to mitigate conflict before it even happens:

  • Only hire the right people. Aside from their core competencies and qualifications, make sure to look into their integrity and character. When you do interviews, make sure to incorporate questions about how they handle conflict ad tension in the workplace. Make them take helpful assessment tests from reputable employee screening solutions like Improve your company’s hiring processes so that you are also looking into candidates’ attitudes and emotional and relational intelligence when looking for talent to join your team.
  • Hold seminars on workplace camaraderie to help enhance your team’s collaboration and teamwork. Hire specialists to talk to your managers and employees about what makes for a safe working environment—one that’s free from discrimination and hate against any gender, race, age, weight, and others. You can also enlist the help of conflict management specialists to talk to your team about how to handle tension and conflict themselves.
  • Build a culture that emphasizes people’s freedom and autonomy to speak up when they feel they have been slighted, and make sure it makes everyone feel like they are safe to do so.

Don’t avoid it

man being talked about by his peers

Conflict is unavoidable, even if we take every preventive measure possible. When disagreements happen, don’t avoid them. If you manage to create a safe and healthy workplace environment, those who have a grievance will certainly feel bold enough to share with you or your human resources (HR) team about what’s bothering them, and you need to take that as a good sign. When someone comes to you or another manager with a relational issue, don’t ignore them. Keep the communication lines open and give them a listening ear—listening well and hearing all sides of the argument is always the first step to managing conflict.

Take accountability if needed

Thanks to cultural moments like the #MeToo movement, the whole world is learning about the value of accountability. It’s not about being cancelled or never allowing people to learn from their mistakes; it’s about how institutions can work harder to protect vulnerable people from managers and bosses who would be abusing and misusing their power.

If an employee comes to you with a problem, avoid feeling defensive of your organization. When we lead with defensiveness, we risk making hurt people feel unheard, discounted, and invalidated. Listen to everyone’s point of view and avoid the urge to immediately protect and defend your company from any wrongdoing.

Look at the big picture

After listening to all sides of the conflict, take a step back. Then, look at the big picture that might have contributed to the problem instead of playing the blame game. Here are some examples:

  • If some employees are always late, look into what might be causing this phenomenon instead of immediately assuming that the employees are just lazy. Look into what’s happening in their personal lives and see how you can help accommodate them to the best of the company’s ability.
  • Check for patterns. If there is a group of people constantly coming into blows, check to see if there is always a common denominator in their conflicts.
  • Look at the context of the conflict before coming to terms with a solution. Remember that a long-term problem will always require long-term solutions instead of band-aid ones.

No organization will be perfect because the people who form it are not perfect. Always be ready for when conflicts occur, listen well, contextualize the issue, and hire specialists if you need to. Conflict management is also a team effort, and asking for help from professionals can help make the task easier.


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