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Dealing with Interpersonal Conflict in the Workplace

written by: Vikas Vij•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 11/8/2010

Interpersonal conflict is the new challenge before the global manager of today. Check out these strategies and approaches that can lead to effective resolution of such conflicts at the workplace.

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    Dealing with Interpersonal Conflict in the Workplace

    Interpersonal Conflicts in Business Management of interpersonal conflict in the workplace is an important responsibility of the team manager. Many times, such conflicts exists at a subliminal level and the team manager may not be aware of it until it begins to reflect negatively in business productivity. Therefore, it is crucial for the managers to be perceptive about its existence and take corrective measures to resolve it before it hurts the organization.

    Identifying the Sources of Interpersonal Conflict

    Business leaders should have an understanding of the typical sources of interpersonal conflict in order to be able to uncover it quickly in the internal business environment. Language, behavior, and personality styles may differ among members of the same team, and if these differences are acute, it may assume the form of conflict. In multi-cultural workplace environments interpersonal conflict may arise due to divergent religious beliefs, ethnic and cultural diversities, and racial differences. Gender bias is another hard reality at the workplace that may become the cause for this type of conflict. Strong differences in working style and personal approach to problems may also become a source of friction over a period of time.

    Different Approaches to Manage Interpersonal Conflict

    Several management studies have led to the identification of two distinct styles of managing interpersonal conflict. The most common style adopted by managers to resolve such conflicts is the collaborative style, which aims for a win-win situation. The manager who uses this approach brings all people together and tries to turn the conflict energy into a positive force for the betterment of team performance.

    The compromise style is the second most popular style that is adopted by managers to resolve such conflicts. Compromise strategy holds both parties responsible for the conflict rather than singling out one party. Therefore, it aims both parties to relent from their current mindset, attitude or behavior to a reasonable extent for the sake of larger group goals.

    Managerial Intervention Is Important

    Differences of opinion and divergent management styles can be healthy for the organization, and all conflict is not necessarily bad. However, when healthy differences degenerate into a condition of interpersonal conflict, it is important for the manager to intervene with a sense of urgency. Without efficient mediation, chances are that the situation may worsen further and adversely affect the team’s performance and productivity. One of the most common mistakes managers tend to make is to avoid or deny the existence of interpersonal conflict in the hope that it will get resolved on its own. However, in most cases it has been observed that such conflicts cannot be wished away just by avoiding them. An unresolved interpersonal conflict surfaces at the most undesirable of moments and may cause a major embarrassment or losses for the organization. Therefore, confronting the situation openly is the best managerial approach. Transparency in conflict resolution is critical because it reinforces the employees’ trust in management. Finally, there must not be a discriminatory approach toward different parties who are involved in the conflict or the resolution process.

    Photo Credit: svilen001