Advances in Technology and Market Pressures have led to increasing expectations on growth and performance in our workplace. Expectations can rarely be met purely based on individual efforts. Successful accomplishment of organizational goals requires collaboration and team work. Goals have to be accomplished with a diverse workforce (based on age, culture, work-styles). This gives rise to interesting challenges. Conflicts at the workplace can significantly impact achievement of goals. In this article I am going to write about common causes for conflict at the work place and methods that can be used for prevention and resolution of conflicts.
Two primary reasons for arise of conflict at the work place are a) Communication Break Down b) Inability to see an alternate point of view. Communication break-down can be overcome by following a couple of simple guidelines. When we are providing information to a co-worker or a customer, it is good to follow-up and see if we have successfully transferred the message across. When we are receiving information from a customer or a co-worker, it is good to paraphrase and run it by the person from whom we received the message to make sure that we have understood the message correctly. It is human nature to see things from our point of view. It is important to relax this and see things from a co-worker or customer perspective. One example is that a solution that works fine in our environment, may not work fine at the customer’s environment.
Another important reason for conflicts is in-appropriate use of emails and different forms of messages (text, whatsapp etc) for conveying critical and important pieces of information. Conveying important messages (good or bad) often requires dialogue and clarification. This can only be achieved via a face to face or a telephonic conversation (if the distance between the parties is large). A face to face conversation followed by an email summary of understanding is often the best way of ensuring good communication on critical issues.
Planning of projects at an early stage by involving all key people is an excellent means to minimize conflicts at the workplace. This means that prior to starting a project the stakeholders have the opportunity to discuss and come up with a framework that is acceptable to the group. Constant follow-ups during the course of the project can help minimize conflicts. If despite our best efforts conflicts arise, then it is important to have the parties sit down and participate in a meaningful dialogue. This requires each side to listen (empathetically) and carefully to the other side. Empathy means putting ourselves in the shoes of the other person, but not necessarily agreeing with the view-point of the other person. If things get combative during discussions, it is important to take a time out and come back to the discussion table when things cool down.
In summary, good planning, having an open environment encouraging alternate view-points, being culturally sensitive and using positive communication skills can help reduce conflicts at the modern work place.
Mani Prithiviraj has a Bachelors in Mechnaical Engineering from BITS, Pilani and a Master’s and Doctorate in Mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University, College Station, USA. He is currently Director of Customer Success at Siemens Industry Software Computational Dynamics India Pvt Ltd, Bengaluru, India. He can be found here.