There are four specific steps managers can take to reduce workplace conflict.
- The first is for managers to look at communication skills, both in terms of how they communicate and how they’re teaching their employees to communicate with each other. This, of course, includes using ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ language. Owning your own feelings and your own communication is a much more effective way to communicate and even more, teaching your employees to communicate that way with others, goes a long way toward reducing conflict. The second part of communication is for managers to beef up listening skills. Active listening involves things like actually trying to understand what the other person is saying, and then communicating to the other person that you do indeed understand what they’re saying.
- The second way to decrease workplace conflict is to establish healthy boundaries. Without boundaries, there will be conflict and squabbles, power struggles and all kinds of circumstances that make for messy situations.
You can be professional and be empathetic and compassionate toward your employees, without crossing the line of becoming their friend. This is especially important when there’s a power difference between two people in an employment situation.
- The third factor to reducing conflict is a skill called ‘emotional intelligence.’ There are many aspects and facets but it basically means developing skills to be more effective by teaching people to combine both intelligence and emotions in the workplace. Seeing and dealing with employees as human beings with real lives is often overlooked in the busy workplace. People with high emotional intelligence can do this in a professional manner, and maintain appropriate boundaries. Another aspect of EQ is knowing and being sensitive to how employees are experiencing you as a manager. Part of EQ is teaching managers to be sensitive to how they’re coming across to others.
- The fourth aspect of reducing workplace conflict is setting up behavioral consequences to be used with truly uncooperative employees who are unwilling to change. Despite using all these recommendations, there will be a few employees that just won’t change because they’re unwilling or unable. That means a manager must explain a consequence, which is an action or sanction that states to the employee the likely outcome of continuing problematic behavior. It will take skills from the three previous points to do this in a non-threatening way.