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HR Matters // A Newsletter On: Creating exceptional workplaces and extraordinary results
TALENT MAXIMIZER Vol 10, Issue 9 - September 2013

Here’s an interesting fact. I’ve published dozens of articles on a site called E-zine Articles, which allows publications to reprint pieces that are posted on the site. My all-time most popular article is “Tips on How to Handle Conflict in the Workplace.” As of May 2013, there have been 49,808 views. Now compare this to my second-most populararticle on performance reviews, which has received a total of 745 views.

Conflict in the workplace is clearly an issue that many are dealing with. Or are they? I’ve gone into stores and waited patiently while clerks argued with one another in front of me. I’ve sat in break rooms watching people planning defense strategies so they could navigate the drama in their workplaces. All the while orders are remaining unfilled, customer’s questions are not being answered, and employees are calling in sick or worse yet, abandoning their jobs.

The following are myths regarding workplace conflict and what you can do to reduce conflict in your company. Give me a call when you are ready to restore peace in your organization again.

How To Minimize Conflict In The Workplace

By Roberta Chinsky Matuson

Whenever groups of people are brought together there is bound to be conflict. That’s not necessarily such a bad thing, as conflict is a necessary part of life. However, all too often disagreement turns into chaos, which leads to workplace disruption.

The following are six myths regarding conflict in the office and how you can create a more peaceful and productive workplace.

Myth #1. The conflict will dissipate on its own.

Rarely have I seen conflict disappear on its own. In fact, when left unattended, the damage usually gets worse. No one likes confrontation, especially those who are in charge. But it’s important to remember that effective leaders sometimes have to do things that aren’t always pleasant.

To diffuse the conflict, meet individually with each employee to hear his or her side of the story and ask him to come up with several ideas to reduce the tension. Offer some suggestions if asked, and end by letting your employees know they can return to you should they need further assistance.

If the problem persists, call a meeting with all parties involved, and mediate the situation. Remind your people that everyone may need to give up something in order to reach a peaceful and productive agreement.

Myth #2. We have to completely eliminate conflict.

Have you ever been in a meeting where everyone went along just for the sake of keeping harmony? You may have done so as well, knowing that there were hazards ahead that no one was speaking about. In hindsight, you probably regretted this move.

There is actually a good side to conflict. Conflict in the workplace stimulates ideas and forces people to consider new ways of getting things done. These ideas are often the foundation on which even better ideas are built

Myth #3. As an organization, we’ve done nothing to contribute to this situation

If you’ve ever worked in a matrix organization, or if you’ve worked in a business where resources were extremely limited, then you know there are certainly times where the organization is actually the source of conflict. It’s impossible to please two bosses with interests that aren’t in complete alignment; nor is it possible to split financial resources fairly when each department believes they will starve if they give up even a morsel to someone else.

Myth #4. Conflict is the same as a fight.

If you believe this, then someone has to lose in order for someone to win. We see this all the time in the workplace. The executive team is meeting to discuss the allocation of resources. One person, who is experienced at going into battle, convinces everyone else that his department should receive the lion’s share of the resources. Realizing there is little else that can be done, people leave the meeting vowing to have the upper hand the next time this person needs help.

Someone doesn’t have to lose in order for everyone to win. Reasonable people are open to discussing what’s in the overall best interest of the company. Particularly when they feel they’ve been given an opportunity to have their say.

Myth #5. Chaos is good.

Some people just love drama. It fuels their souls. If you step back for a moment you may even observe these individuals stirring things up and then quietly walking away, leaving tiny explosions behind them.

Chaos is not good. In fact, many people find chaotic environments too stressful to work in. They choose to get the heck out of dodge before they become part of the problem.

Since disagreement is inevitable, it makes good business sense to train employees and management on how to effectively deal with conflict in the workplace. Your investment will reap immediate dividends. Employees will spend less time focusing on one another and more time focusing on your customers. Which, in turn, will drive profitability. Who can argue with that?

© 2013 Matuson Consulting. All rights reserved.

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About Roberta Matuson

Roberta is the woman they call at Monster.com to talk about talent. Roberta just completed a series of videos for Monster to help business leaders pull in and keep top performers. These videos will be featured on Monster and in future newsletters. Be sure to check our website (matusonconsulting.com) for additional tips on talent maximization.

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© 2013 Matuson Consulting. All Rights Reserved.