Human beings are highly social creatures. We interact and form groups based on interests, attitudes, and geography. These interactions help our day-to-day relations with one another or other groups of different interests. We have achieved much as a species due to a fairly high level of civil and amicable interaction.
However, not all interactions amongst individuals are civil. Individuals or groups have disagreed on interests, thought processes, and opinions. These conflicts cannot be wished away; they are part of life and result from our interaction with our fellow human beings.
Unfortunately, some of these conflicts are not resolved civilly, and bad blood is left to linger between the groups or individuals.
Consequently, the great things that can be accomplished by these groups or individuals are abandoned because of unresolved conflict, and the best way to address this issue is through civil discourse. On the surface, civil discourse looks like a good and sustainable idea that can be used by leaders to resolve conflicts at work.
Many organizations, government parastatals, and companies are aware of the cost of human and time resources that can occur when conflicts are avoided rather than resolved. These days, conflict resolution experts are hired to train employees, the Human Resources department of most firms, and government agents. This has resulted in improvement in conflict management and has set the need for civil discourse for leaders in the government sector.
Nevertheless, there is a notable difference between having an environment where conflict is scarce and avoiding conflict when it arises. The fact is that there will always be conflicts as long as humans interact with each other, and you can’t avoid them all. In fact, it will serve you better to learn to manage a conflict than to try to avoid it. But how can you try to avoid conflicts at work?
Conflict Avoidance in the Workplace
It is only human to want to be loved and accepted by our peers or colleagues, especially in the workplace. Being seen as easy-going and pleasant is important to many employees.
This type of employee can go to any length to avoid conflict to retain the love and acceptance of their co-workers. We have seen people that could actively resolve conflicts that involve their friends, or family members shy away from resolving or contributing to the resolution of conflict in the workplace because they’re disinterested in the company or do not see it as part of their job.
Conflict avoidance in the workplace can present as simply denying the existence of any issue, total withdrawal from the issue, or side-stepping.
Many leaders and managers either overlook these instances of conflict avoidance or are not equipped to resolve conflict amongst team members. Oftentimes they avoid the conflict themselves.
This makes conflict avoidance fester in the workplace and gives rise to several unpleasant problems like strained communication, impaired cooperation within the team, a dysfunctional working environment, high turnover, and loss of productivity. This worsens performance in the workplace and leads to interpersonal conflicts.
This is why it is necessary for a modern manager to be a leader, learn conflict management skills and always use the technique of civil discourse for leaders in approaching workplace conflicts.
Overcoming Conflict Avoidance at Work
It is obvious that conflict avoidance presents serious problems in the workplace and needs to be addressed if any company wants to move forward. Workers need to feel seen, valued, and listened to.
Although this may be the work of managers and HR personnel in many companies, it is not reserved for them. If you’re a leader, the techniques highlighted here can help you improve your civil discourse for leaders, team members, or even peers.
Make communication tools accessible
The improvement in technology means that one doesn’t need to meet in person to speak up about an issue. Communication software like Slack can help employees present their arguments constructively and without being confrontational. This helps create an environment of open communication where opposing opinions are listened to and explored.
Regularize manager check-ins
Managers should be trained to know their staff, communicate and familiarize themselves with them. This will make employees comfortable enough to explore differing opinions and build a culture of authentic conversations that could boost different aspects of work.
Encourage healthy disagreements
Many employees may view disagreements as antagonizing, but if you show that disagreements can be constructive, they’ll be sure to follow. As long as the disagreements and debates are civil and beneficial to the company, it is important to show them that their opinions will be listened to, explored, and agreed or disagreed with. The main thing is for them to understand that the management does not frown at the variance of opinion and that their jobs are safe even if they disagree with a process or idea.
Finally, companies should create an environment where conflicts and debates are civil and are discussed through fluid, honest and open communication.
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