You’re at work, but you can’t focus. Your coworkers are arguing. You want to finish this project and go home, but you can’t stop thinking about how much you wish they’d just get along.
Sound familiar? Team conflict is a serious problem that affects your team’s productivity and morale (and yours). Fortunately, there are ways to curb conflict before it starts—or at least make sure that when it does start, you’re equipped with the five habits that can help prevent conflict from happening in your workplace:
Respect each other’s opinions.
When you are in a meeting, don’t dismiss ideas or opinions because they are different. Instead, listen and try to understand why your coworker is saying what they are saying. If you feel they have misunderstood something, ask them to explain their point of view in more detail. Don’t argue just to win, but rather learn from each other and grow as individuals together.
Lindsay Anvik, a business coach in leadership and productivity, emphasized that, more often than not, different and diverse opinions and ideas can lead to significant innovations. Moreover, “take the consistent stance of being open to someone whose opinions differ from yours. This allows you to see things in a new light (and decide when to go to bat for your idea).”
If a team member has an idea that doesn’t seem feasible, tell them it might be worth trying later if more information comes up later in the project or campaign.
Listen carefully to understand.
Listening carefully to understand is a skill you can learn. When you listen, pay attention to the other person’s words and body language. Listen for the main idea and details. Don’t interrupt until they have finished speaking their mind. Don’t judge or criticize what they say; just hear them out by asking questions that demonstrate your interest in what they think and feel. Don’t think about what you will say next while they are still talking; wait until they have finished speaking before responding with your thoughts or opinions on the topic.
Suppose an employee comes up with ideas that don’t align with what management wants. In that case, it’s important not to shut down those ideas immediately or respond negatively when someone disagrees with your opinion on how things should be done at work—even if you don’t agree with them! Instead, try being open-minded: listen carefully as this person explains why they believe something different from yours.
Don’t let the problem go unaddressed.
Avoiding a problem is not the same as resolving it. It rarely happens when you ignore a situation and hope it will go away. It might take longer to fix the problem, but you’ll likely have to address it again in the future unless you take steps now to manage it immediately and effectively.
Nick Kamboj, the CEO of Aston & James LLC, highlighted that usually, it is imperative to undertake the issue as soon as possible, because ignoring these issues will increase your team’s tension level, making everyone feel uncomfortable.
By addressing problems immediately and directly when they arise, you can let people know how much you respect their opinions and by taking them seriously enough to discuss them openly and honestly with each other.
Be willing to apologize.
The next time you have an argument with a coworker and things turn ugly, remember that it’s okay to apologize. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or wrong; instead, it shows that you’re willing to admit mistakes and take responsibility for them. Apologizing can help smooth over hurt feelings and make up for an error. Plus, if the other person knows that they can trust your word when you say sorry—and if they know that you won’t let something like this happen again—it will make them more likely to cooperate with future endeavors for the team!
Appreciate your team.
The last and arguably one of the most important things to do for your team is to appreciate them. You need to be able to look at your team and see the value in each person. Don’t take for granted that everyone on your team is doing their job well.
Acknowledge what they do well, offer praise and recognition when deserved, and don’t hesitate to give feedback when things aren’t up to par. The more you appreciate your team members, the better they will perform, and the more likely they will stay with you for longer periods.
These five habits will help you avoid the pitfalls of team conflict. In the end, you need to remember that a team is made up of individuals with their own opinions, goals, and ambitions. By understanding this fact and being mindful of your own actions and words, you can build strong habits that will help you avoid team conflict in the workplace. Conflict is not always bad; it can be an opportunity to grow and learn even when it seems like a problem. The key is to keep communication open and honest so everyone feels heard and respected.
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