The concept of conflict is pervasive and ambiguous and has acquired numerous connotations and meanings over time. Conflicts are inevitable in human beings’ lives, organizations, and nations. As a process, conflict arises when one party cites that another party is rivaling its interest. Disputes are unavoidable when people of different backgrounds and ideologies come together to meet shared objectives in an organization. Conflicts can be and should be managed and resolved for positive outcomes. Due to anxieties and tensions rising due to racial, sexual, and political divisions at work, there are high chances of increased workplace conflicts.
Naturally, we tend to see conflicts as visual elements, such as using angry words and force of action to oppose. However, this is just a minor aspect of conflicts as a process that can positively contribute to an organization’s growth and development. Some people view conflict as a negative aspect that needs to be avoided by any means, while others see it as an aspect that requires practical managerial acumen. Moreover, others view conflicts as an opportunity to grow in person, so they utilize it to their advantage. Regardless of where one falls in the varying viewpoints of conflict, the human resource of an organization should never allow a continuous state of conflict since it could be counterproductive.
Role of Human Resource Management in conflict resolution
The human resource department of an organization plays the role of mediating conflicting parties, be it employees and managers, and ensuring that organizational policies are not violated. Human resource professionals in modern organizations should settle workplace conflicts by correctly interpreting existing policies and labor laws. They should also follow conflict resolution and management procedures to reach an amicable solution for all parties. Dynamic changes in human resource management as a profession have contributed to professionals being at the centre of organizational activities where people are the most important resource of any organization. Bearing this in mind, their role in conflict resolution and management cannot be separated from their organizational objectives.
The human resource responds adequately to employee complaints that may lead to conflicts, such as allegations of poor working conditions, discrimination, and favoritism. The human resource explains the code of conduct and ethics, presents compromises and solutions to existing complaints, and determines the right disciplinary interventions if necessary. Secondly, the human resource department in modern organizations acts as a liaison between employers and labor unions and settles labor conflicts that could lead to litigation and strikes. In this context, HR also gets into bargaining agreements and employee relations such as wages, contracts, and employee benefits.
Workplace conflicts occur in most organizations, and ignoring them can be costly in the long run. Every unaddressed conflict in an organization wastes organizational time and resources by engaging in unproductive activities, including ineffective communication and flow of information in the current information age, where information is a critical factor of production. Understanding the cause of conflicts in the workplace can enable human resource practitioners in an organization to handle emerging problems promptly before disputes become a face-off between conflicting parties.
Realizing that conflicts are regular occurrences and healthy is an excellent place to start for modern organizations, even when many may shy away from conflicts. Human resource practitioners of the modern age understand and believe that conflicts are essential aspects that drive overall organizational success. Experts in human resources have a fund that teams whose members can freely agree to disagree are the most effective. A workplace environment where dissent is not suppressed but instead encouraged spurs innovation due to diversity of perspectives and consequently helps make sound decisions. In conflict management, HR ensures that conflict does not become personal and emotional, which would make it unhealthy. On the contrary, healthy conflict is promoted to build high levels of trust where it is okay to challenge coworkers’ views for the organization’s good.
Human resource and conflict resolution Values
In modern organizations, the human resource departments, in their mandate to resolve and manage conflicts, should always strive to achieve positive outcomes and adhere to values such as respect for all. Disputes should and can be resolved by considering the needs of all parties to make them binding and long-lasting. Secondly, conflict resolution should empower and engage all parties. Resolving conflicts is based on the premise that the parties have their rights and obligations to engage and contribute to decisions that influence their lives. In this light, conflict resolution requires that the parties are best positioned to attain their objectives and have meaningful relationships when cooperating.
HR should also respect diverse perspectives and views. One of the key tenets of resolving conflicts is considering the views of affected parties and working to meet their needs. In this context, it is not enough to only understand and respect the parties they agree with but also to respect and understand those that they disagree with. In doing so, justice prevails as the resolution is amicable. Finally is the value of transforming individuals and groups in conflict resolution. Human resources in changing how to deal with conflicts enable all stakeholders, employees, and managers alike to have a rewarding and responsible workplace experience. Transforming individuals is an important part of changing the community by providing role models and taking on responsibilities in one’s community. However, transforming the whole requires proactive interventions such as conflict resolution training since a stalemate.
Unhealthy conflicts in the workplace
Unhealthy conflicts arise when one party tries to assert power over the other by blaming or keeping them down with negative comments. Unhealthy conflicts in the workplace do not yield positive outcomes unless a neutral party is involved. For instance, bullying is a type of unhealthy conflict common in the workplace characterized by repetitive traits targeting another. The dynamics of bullying as a form of conflict are complicated and can, over time, becomes difficult to distinguish who the bully and the bullied are.
Notably, unhealthy conflict leads to disruption, negativity, and increased turnover. Leaders and the human resource of an organization should learn to identify unhealthy conflicts on time. Additionally, teams within an organization should be encouraged to debate without passing judgment on others based on their varying ideas. Learning to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy conflicts and how to best use healthy conflicts to drive productivity and strengthen teams can contribute significantly to a conducive working environment.
It is worth noting that identifying ways of handling healthy conflicts in the workplace also means finding areas that need improvement. It is wise to direct disputes into potential opportunities to bring meaningful change to the organization. Leading by example and helping teams overcome conflicts constructively fosters a culture that embraces healthy conflicts and promotes a conducive working environment. Signs of unhealthy disputes include:
- Increased employee turnover
- Reduced productivity
- High Absenteeism
- Disrespect among coworkers
- Poor work relationships
- Dysfunctional meetings
- Anxiety and distress
- Avoiding conflicts altogether
How can conflict Resolution benefit your organization?
Modern organizations and businesses strive to promote cohesiveness to drive productivity. Even so, conflicts inevitably tend to arise naturally. While conflict is often viewed as a negative occurrence, it can contribute to the success of an organization. Rather than ignoring or getting rid of conflicts, organizations may want to find ways of dealing with them to improve organizational conditions. The following are some benefits how conflicts can contribute to the growth of an organization:
- Improves workplace Relationships
Effective conflict management and resolution strengthen the bond between employees and their management. Employees in an organization should be motivated and find workdays exciting and equally challenging. Before implementing ideas and decisions, all stakeholders likely to be affected by them should be discussed so that all stakeholders feel engaged in the entire process. Conflict management prevents conflicts from escalating and reduces employee pressure and anxiety. Additionally, when employees feel comfortable disagreeing with someone, it strengthens the relationship in the long run. Engaging in conflicts as professionals make it possible to work together in the future meaningfully.
- It promotes healthy debates and arguments
Disputes in the workplace embolden argument and opposition of ideas which is suitable for any environment where continuous learning is necessary. While debating, conflicting parties and other involved parties acquire skills to deal with workplace issues professionally without causing harm physically or emotionally through insults. Whatever position you hold in an organization, it is prudent not to let a certain idea pass if you feel that sit will not work for the organization’s benefit. When debating and arguing, sociable rivalry of ideas boosts morale and consequently increases productivity. Additionally, the quality of ideas improves through debating, which can ultimately be used by a business or organization for use in products or services they produce.
- Clarifies doubts in the workplace
Conflicts are an effective way of seeking clarification of doubts. In a working environment where ideas and perspectives are not the same, there are high chances of conflicts arising. Disputes will always occur, and humans can’t help; thus, it is best to allow conflicts to arise and solve them amicably. In doing so, conflicts clarify doubts and improve the work place at large as workers learn to acknowledge and appreciate each other to achieve shared organizational goals. Asking the right questions during a conflict could make all the difference for all parties.
- Allows change to occur fast
One of the most exciting advantages of conflicts in the workplace is that it creates room for organizational changes. Ignoring a conflict or a problem in an organization is a grave mistake; by assuming that it does not exist, nothing will ever change in the workplace. Change is the only constant thing, especially when learning is inevitable. Lack of learning leads to stagnation with few chances of improvement. For modern organizations, avoiding conflicts is tantamount to preventing change which is futile and can lead to the fall of a thriving organization. Organizations that encourage their human resources to approach conflicts positively and productively can beat stagnation by allowing competitors and challenges to provide new and innovative solutions.
- Alleviates stress and anxiety in the workplace
There is no doubt that conflict resolution benefits from taking away anxiety and stress among conflicting parties. Naturally, people involved in disputes tend to feel relaxed after finding a fairground, allowing emotions to flow as they talk about their perspectives and problems they would want to be solved. Healthy resolution increases one party’s understanding of the other and builds trust. This creates a calm environment where employees can not only work much productively but also where conflicts can be resolved professionally.
- It fosters creativity and innovation
Conflict can be viewed as a co-creative process where parties involved bring their perspectives together to find an amicable solution where all needs are met. In this sense, it requires understanding all points of view, foreseeing a best-case scenario, and determining how to meet the best outcome for conflicting parties best. While most people view conflict negatively, something new is created when varying ideas come together. Remember that when dealing with a conflict constructively, many opportunities arise.
- It promotes a thorough investigation of issues
Whenever a conflict arises and is shared among members of an organization, t call for a deeper look at the issue at hand and the varying perspectives that could be the cause or solution to the problem. It is through closer examination that new and relevant information that can make the situation better is discovered.
- It demonstrates commitment and passion for the organization
Conflicts generally arise when people’s needs are not met and appreciated. This is usually true when people are mandated to complete specific projects aligned with organizational goals.Acknowledging the strengths of a conflicting party makes them feel wanted and appreciated and, therefore, able to work with the rest of the organizational members. Notably, when you acknowledge a conflict as a consequence of a team member’s commitment to organizational purpose, you may consider rewarding them to build their motivation.