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Inevitably, people in the workplace are going to disagree about how, who and when the work needs to be done. When that happens, management is expected to step in. For a manager, the ability to successfully address and resolve conflict is a critical skill.
Far too often, instead of resolving conflict, managers just maintain it. The manager fails to address issues and lets the problems fester. The issues don’t always blow up right away — but they brew and simmer below the surface, permeating and slowly poisoning workplace relationships and results.
Here are a few signs that your workplace is in a cycle of conflict maintenance.
- Gossip. It is a sign people are upset with each other and don’t have a proper outlet to work it out. If people in your workplace are spending more time talking about each other than about the work to be done and goals to be accomplished, there’s conflict maintenance going on.
- Avoidance. This is also a sign people are upset with each other and don’t have an outlet to work it out. However, instead of speaking negatively about each other, they just stop speaking at all. They go to great lengths to prevent situations that require them to interact. When people are talking less than usual and customary, there’s conflict maintenance at work.
- Confirmation emails. If people are sending lots of email to confirm they’ve completed a task or report an issue, it is a sign people don’t trust each other and feel like they have to
cover their buttdocument what is happening. That means there is conflict maintenance happening.
- Tattling. If people are notifying management about every minor error made by others, it is a sign people are feeling frustrated with each other and believe management needs to step in and do something. That means there is conflict maintenance in the mix.
Conflict is absolutely unavoidable. If the resolution of it is handled properly, it can be an experience that leads to improvement and growth. When we spend our time practicing the art of conflict maintenance, we cause more harm than good with passive aggressive tactics.
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Conflict maintenance is an art, really. It takes a lot of time, energy and effort. And the longer a manager allows it to go on, the more difficult it will be to resolve the conflict and move forward positively.
Conflict is meant to be resolved, not maintained. Get to fixing!