The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Friday Guest Blog: Conflict in the Workplace - How to Address the Danger Signs

By Gemma Lockett - Sales, Management Development and Human Resources Expert and Training Consultant for Business Support Solutions

“Conflict can occur in any working environment, at any organisation, large or small. Where there are two or more values, perspectives or contradictory opinions there is the potential for conflict and if not brought to a satisfying conclusion early enough, it can result in discontented employees working in a tense and unpleasant atmosphere. Certainly not the best conditions to produce quality work.

Conflict situations arise for a number of reasons, however some of the most common include poor communication, lack of information, stress, poor leadership and discrimination. Behaviour is often driven by situation, so if you work in an industry where you are problem solving, dealing with complaints, or working in a high-pressure environment, it is likely that you will have experienced some form of conflict. Although conflict situations are generally seen as being negative, conflict is often the driving force for change and when managed well, can be constructive as opposed to destructive.

Many larger organisations tend to rely on Human Resource Departments to manage conflict situations, taking it out of managers’ hands in case they mishandle the situation and say something that could be held against them in any formal proceedings that could follow. For organisations without their own HR Departments, managers are expected to deal with conflict situations as and when they arise and many haven’t had the training to deal with the issues that have sparked the initial disagreement and the resulting conflict.

When not managed effectively, conflict situations can cause a variety of challenges, such as increased levels of sickness, project failure and people leaving the organisation. Some employees even experience violence in the workplace.

An important skill of a good manager is their ability to identify the danger signs. Managers are often surprised when conflict situations arise however there are often a number of signals that individuals will display to indicate that there are problems. These could include: increased levels of absenteeism or lateness, changes in behaviour and instances of bullying.

As the leader of a ‘Conflict Management’ Business Training event, I take delegates through differences in behaviour, how to read difficult personality types and how to handle aggressive people. One of the keys to reducing conflict is being able to anticipate it and I tell attendees how to read the signs, manage expectations and anticipate flashpoint situations. I talk about how to prevent workplace conflict from occurring in the first place and the importance of understanding the needs of staff and having a positive attitude. We look at the knack of taking control of the conversation and how to protect employees by removing them from conflict situations. I also include practical exercises so that delegates can practice techniques and I try and give as much help and guidance as possible when people discuss their ‘real life’ bullying scenarios.

The recent economic climate has seen many organisations making redundancies and cutting departmental budgets, which can lead to a general decline in staff motivation levels. Conflict is a major drain on most businesses, not only financially but also in time and resources. It is your responsibility to ensure that you are capable of identifying, investigating and knowing how to deal with conflict that may arise in your team.”

The next ‘Conflict Management’ Business Training event takes place on Tuesday 23rd March at Warren Bruce Court, Trafford Park. For more information and to book your place and for details on other courses available, call 0161 875 2352 or visit:

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