Resolving Workplace Conflict

Conflict at the workplace is inevitable, and that’s because where human beings are involved, there is bound to be difference in opinion.

Conflict arise from so many reasons, ranging from poor communication to someone just having a bad day. As a leader, when such cases are brought to your attention, wishing them is never the best approach. Taking sides or pointing fingers just makes the conflicting parties confirm that you cannot be trusted to resolve their issues.

Over the years of practice, I have learnt not to take anything on the face value. People can pretend very well, some will manipulate you with tears so you can take their side. My unorthodox way of dealing with conflict at work is assuming that all of them are guilty, until the facts prove each one of them innocent. When a complaint is brought to your attention, it is important to listen very carefully to the complainant. Take notes for reference purposes. You must also listen separately to the accused too. Do not pass any judgements at this stage or draw conclusions. You must then bring the two conflicting parties together so each one of them can repeat exactly what they said. This is where the truth will come out, and sometimes, you will see that the stories will begin to change. It is sometimes necessary to have a third party present, like a Supervisor, as a witness when resolving the issue, depending on the sensitivity of the matter.

Resolving conflicts is not about pleasing anyone but helping the conflicting parties find a solution. Being too quick to offer solutions in such cases may work against you and therefore, you must allow both parties to find their own solution to their problems. The idea is to deal with the facts as presented and not make a decision based on emotions. As I said before, some people will literally weep in your presence in order to get your sympathy. Sweeping employee complaints under the rag and hoping that they will go away on their own is wrong. The truth is that they never go away, instead, they blow up when you least expect and what comes back to you is that, you were notified of the issues and you did nothing.

As a HRM or a Leader, you must define very clearly to the employees or your team what is acceptable behavior and avoid all forms of emotions when resolving conflicts. Always remember that nothing is always as it seems, so sift through the facts. Sometimes, finding a solution to the conflict will not be in black and white, so as a leader, it is up to you to do what is right.

  • Lucy says:

    Well put. How about when top management uses its political muscle totally disregarding the laid down procedures. I have seen a situation in an international setting where there are unresolved conflicts to an extent where employees are dismissed without looking at the merits or facts of the case. How would you resolve such a problem?

    • Sometimes employers are guided by their emotions rather than the facts and as such, they end up making critical decisions like summarily dismissing a staff without following the procedures. In that case therefore, an employee has the right to complain through the different channels the government has set in order to demand for far hearing. Such places where you may register your complaint include the Labour Office, Kituo cha Sheria, your Union (if you are a Unionized staff) or the Industrial Court, among others.

  • Milly knight says:

    Well put

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