It’s inevitable that any hospitality business will eventually encounter some type of conflict. Research indicates that an overwhelming 85% of workers experience some degree of workplace conflict. That same report found that on average, each employee spends 2.1 hours every week (or approximately one day a month) dealing with conflict in some manner.
Time is money, and the inability of leaders to effectively manage and resolve conflict can be a costly problem. Conflict comes in many forms, making it a dynamic and challenging hurdle to overcome, especially when stakes are high. Here are five strategies every business leader and hands-on entrepreneur should understand when dealing with workplace conflict.
In most cases, workplace conflict is best when embraced head-on. Otherwise, situations will only worsen, and employee absenteeism and job turnover become even more significant problems. When conflict surfaces, it’s crucial to deal with the issue as soon as it arises. Although not always easy, this practice is particularly vital when stakes are high, and conflict resolution is time-sensitive.
Contrary to the negative notion conflict can have in the workplace, the best leaders understand that conflict can be a constructive facilitator of positive growth within an organization when appropriately addressed and handled. On the opposite end of the spectrum, workplace conflict can cripple an organization when neglected and avoided. Embrace conflict aggressively and methodically to learn, adapt, and overcome.
View Conflict as an Opportunity
Based on the previous strategy, it’s important business leaders and entrepreneurs percieve conflict as an opportunity for positive outcomes versus negative disputes. When handled properly, virtually any workplace conflict can be a valuable learning opportunity for management and staff.
Disagreement between two parties or professionals offers potential for growth and development, especially when the conflict involves planning and decision making with long-term future ramifications. Differing perspectives can stimulate innovation and new ways of handling old problems. Workplace conflict doesn’t have to involve emotional grievance or personal disputes. Accomplished business managers and successful entrepreneurs use internal conflicts to help make the organization function better well into the future.
As a business leader attempting to resolve workplace conflict, you must listen carefully to both sides of the argument. This involves listening to what is being said rather than just listening for an opportunity to react.
According to Ann Chastain of Michigan State University, if we improve our listening and communication skills, we will better understand others perspectives, emotions, and needs. The ability to actively listen and hear what another person is saying is essential to working through conflict.
Active listening skills center on the ability to summarize and reframe. What do these active listening skills actually, and how can you practice them? You do not have to be in conflict to practice these skills – use them with your next conversation, whether at work or home. The skills are simple yet very powerful when used correctly.
- Restate – Repeat what you have just heard, using words very close to those just spoken. This shows that you are attentively listening to what is being conveyed.
- Paraphrase – Use your own words to state what you think the other person meant. Begin with phrases like: “I hear you saying” or “you believe that…” This helps the other individual know that you have heard them and do understand what they are trying to say.
- Summarize – Paraphrase what you have heard, including any emotion you feel in the other person’s message. Use phrases like “it sounds like you feel,” or “I believe that you feel…” This can confirm the other’s feelings in the context of the discussion and often helps them to move on and pursue constructive solutions to the conflict.
Lastly, it would be best if you asked questions about what was discussed to confirm your understanding of the issues in question. You will be unable to find an effective resolution if you do not have a strong sense of the issues.
Arriving at a favorable resolution of conflict is always the ultimate goal. In resolving workplace conflict, it is vital to make sure you do the following.
- Clearly articulate the causes of the conflict – openly acknowledging there will be differing perceptions of the issue.
- Make a clear statement of why you want the conflict resolved and reasons to work through the disagreement.
- Communicate how you want the conflict resolved and what the desired outcome is.
- Address the problems face-to-face. Email, letters, or memos are not a productive way to resolve differences.
- Stick to the issues. In trying to resolve conflict, ego can get in the way. Refrain from other issues that distract from the specific problem at hand.
- Take time out if necessary. In the resolution of a conflict, our emotions may interfere with arriving at a productive solution. If this transpires, take a time-out and resume resolving the dispute at another designated time.
Anytime people work together, conflict is simply a fundamental aspect of doing business. Conflict is a natural and normal part of any organization. When workplace conflict arises, there’s a tendency for morale to suffer and reports of absenteeism and decreased productivity to escalate.
Effectively handling and resolving conflicts is one of the biggest challenges both managers and employees face. In most cases, there are two common responses to conflict: avoidance or contest. In either scenario, it’s easy to feel dissatisfied with the outcome because no resolution has been achieved. By learning to constructively resolve conflict when stakes are high, we can turn a potentially destructive situation into an opportunity for growth and enhanced performance.
This post is part of BlueprintRF’s entrepreneur series, a collection of articles intended to equip business owners and executives with the tools, information, and resources they need to thrive in the hospitality industry.