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How to Manage Conflict in the Workplace

July 27, 2016

By: Brad Gessner

Conflict is an inevitable part of business, particularly in large hospitality organizations, where hundreds or even thousands of employees each bring their own unique personality to work every day. The pace is a mile a minute, and the environment is constantly changing—it’s safe to assume and okay to accept that disagreements will happen from time to time.

When conflict arises within an organization or team, it is the leader’s job to assuage the situation and establish a resolution. Otherwise, the conflict persists, worsens, and spreads. So, how can a leader mitigate conflict?

First, Understand that Communication is Usually the Cause

Most conflict in the workplace can be traced back to communication. Even if you have a cohesive team of highly experienced professionals, information sometimes falls victim to the age-old telephone game. Remember that communication entails much more than conveying pure facts; a miscommunication can also involve directions, expectations, and tone.

Fix Instead of Blame

When something goes awry at work, the instinct might be to offload accountability onto someone. Even in cases where an employee is undoubtedly wrong, realize that a blame frame of mind is cancerous. Rather than “outing” the wrongdoer, be the one to remind everyone that you are all on the same team. Replace insinuations of fault with a search for solutions.

Encourage Input

It’s human nature to be timid or tentative when sharing ideas, especially for those who are not in leadership roles. You might already have a culture that welcomes input from everyone, but take it a step further and encourage input from everyone. When your team feels comfortable around each other, conflicts will be fewer, farther between, and more reconcilable.

Visualize the Desired Outcome

A conflict is a delicate situation. Before you do anything, whether it’s bringing someone into your office or calling a team meeting, identify your end goal. Then, evaluate whether your plan of action aligns with the desired outcome. By taking a step back, you can avoid common missteps that leaders take during conflict resolution, such as placing blame.

Hire and Fire for Culture

If there is any way to avoid conflict altogether, it’s to build your team with a clear vision. Jackie Reed, CEO of T.S. Restaurants, said it perfectly in her article on shaping a company culture:

“In order for a culture to sustain and thrive, you will sometimes have to make tough decisions. Put simply, you hire and fire based on culture. You might be forced to pass on hiring a candidate with spectacular skills because their character doesn’t fit your culture. Likewise, you might have to let someone go because they are not upholding (or worse, are undermining) your cultural values.”

Culture and conflict resolution go hand in hand—read Jackie’s full article on culture here.

Develop Your Leadership Skills

Leadership is a learning process, even at the senior level. If you’re looking to enhance your leadership skills with some of the best in the hospitality business, the Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) Master’s Program at San Diego State University offers a flexible, personalized, and affordable curriculum that will change your life.

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