Conflict is inevitable in any organisation. When handled properly, it can contribute significantly to personal and organisational health. It can improve understanding and produce innovative solutions to problems. When handled poorly, however, it leads to hurt feelings, damaged relationships, and low morale. Managers must be able to minimise hostility between themselves and their staff members; and the best way to manage harmful conflict is to prevent it from ever arising. Here are some suggestions…

Maintain a healthy workplace and illiminate conflict with communication.

1. Learn to be an effective communicator.

Communication is the lifeblood of an organisation. Conflict is often caused by people not listening to or understanding each other. Misunderstandings can result in accusations, blame, and personal attacks. At times, there is no real conflict, simply misinterpretation.

Work at improving your communication skills for listening and speaking so that you minimise misunderstanding. Convey the need for clarity in all your discussions.

2. Keep your staff informed.

By withholding information from all those it affects, you can create tension amongst staff, often causing some of them to react adversely and, in doing so, generate conflict situations.

3. Be honest and open with your staff.

When people feel threatened, they become defensive. The best way to discourage any fear of intimidation is for you to behave in a nonthreatening manner. Be open and honest with staff at all times. The more you are perceived as honest and forthright, and receptive and open to the feelings and opinions of others, the less inclined employees will be to go on the defensive. A climate of openness and honesty will prevent minor issues from blowing out into major catastrophes.

4. Avoid the use of threats, demands, and put-downs.

When you denigrate, moralise, threaten, or make demands of others, you are creating a conflict situation. Resist becoming involved in the conflict-generating games that people play.

Do not be hasty to judge others openly; never make personal attacks on people behind their backs or in public; never belittle others’ achievements; rather, celebrate with them; and keep your pessimism to yourself.

5. Stay cool.

Don’t let other people push your ‘get angry’ button. There are times when a show of anger may serve you well; there are times when it is smarter to keep your cool. Before over-reacting to anything, count to ten and check out the facts: perhaps you misunderstood, perhaps you misheard… Skirmishes can readily develop into battles.

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