Frontline workers, also known as deskless workers, comprise around two billion people worldwide, serving as the backbone of many organizations. The performance of frontline workers can have a significant impact on the success of a business. Teamwork is critical among these workers as it can dictate efficiency, job satisfaction, communication, and morale.
However, conflict can arise between frontline workers, negatively affecting their performance. If you manage a team of frontliners, you should know how to resolve conflict when it does occur.
This article will discuss how conflict at the workplace affects employees and the strategies for resolving disputes in the workplace.
How workplace conflict affects employees
No two employees are exactly the same. As individuals, they have unique views, interests, and goals. These differences may result in disagreements or arguments that can damage the relationship between team members.
Some causes of conflict in the workplace include clashing opinions, poor communication, power struggles, and discrimination. For instance, ex-convict employees may experience discrimination from their colleagues, increasing the likelihood of workplace conflict.
The effects of workplace conflict on frontline workers can be significant and far-reaching. Primarily, conflict creates a hostile and negative work environment that can lead to higher stress levels and decreased job satisfaction. In turn, this translates to higher rates of absenteeism
Increased stress and decreased job satisfaction
Higher rates of absenteeism
Poor morale and quality of work
Frontline workers are particularly susceptible to the effects of workplace conflict as they often have limited control over their work environment. Additionally, they may be caught in the middle of disputes between management and other employees. The increased stress resulting from such an environment can have serious consequences for their mental and physical health.
This vulnerability to conflict highlights one of the advantages of remote workers. Unlike frontliners, remote workers are spared from office drama and other stressors in the workplace. Exclusively digital interaction with colleagues has drawbacks, but it decreases the likelihood of conflict.
The negative effects of a bad work environment on employee productivity and wellness are undeniable. Human resource teams should proactively manage and resolve conflicts to create a workplace conducive to positivity and good health.
How to resolve conflict among workers
Conflict resolution in the workplace requires a proactive and systematic approach. There is no one-size-fits-all method, but the steps below can be applied to various situations.
Identify the root cause. You can only resolve a conflict if you know what started it. Gather information by talking to the parties involved.
Encourage open communication. Establish an open communication channel. Make sure each party respectfully communicates their perspectives, feelings, and needs.
Find common ground. Identify areas of agreement between the parties and build on these to reach a mutually acceptable solution. Encourage both parties to see the situation from each other’s perspective.
Mediate the conflict. If open communication is insufficient, consider the help of a neutral third party to help facilitate a resolution.
Implement a solution. When a solution has been agreed upon, implement it immediately and effectively. Set clear goals and expectations and regularly review the progress towards the resolution.
Follow-up. After resolving the conflict, you must follow up with the involved parties to ensure the solution is working. Make sure to address any lingering issues.
The steps above are not ideal for every situation, but they can prove to be an effective guide. Every conflict situation is unique and may require a tailor-made approach to resolution. That being said, there are five conflict resolution strategies that we all use.
The 5 Conflict Resolution Strategies
People approach conflict in various ways. A person may have one or more methods they prefer and use regularly. The Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI) is a psychological tool used to measure an individual’s inclination towards a specific method of handling conflict. Below are the five different conflict resolution strategies from TKI.
1 - Avoiding
People who use this strategy ignore the conflict or withdraw from it in hopes it will resolve itself or die down eventually. Oftentimes, this strategy is used when the discomfort of confrontation overshadows the potential reward of resolving the conflict.
This strategy requires little to no effort from the facilitator, but it means the involved parties are not doing anything to achieve reconciliation. Valuable ideas are ignored and the conflict can last longer than it should. It is best used when the issue is minor and the parties involved are not prepared to address it.
2 - Competing
People who “compete” resolve a conflict by winning at the expense of the other party. It emphasizes the assertion of one’s own interests and concerns instead of cooperation. Under this strategy, it is assumed that the conflict is resolved when one side wins and everybody else loses. It only works in situations that are not amenable to collaboration.
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3 - Accommodating
In this strategy, one party sacrifices its own interests and concerns to meet the needs of the other party. They are being cooperative, but not taking a strong stance. This approach can appear to be a gracious way to concede when one realizes they were mistaken.
However, it can lead to unresolved issues if used excessively to maintain peace or avoid conflict. Overuse of accommodation can lead to a situation where the most assertive individuals dominate the decision-making process and control the majority of discussions.
4 - Collaborating
This strategy involves working together to find a solution that meets the needs of all parties involved. This style is most effective when there is a need to find a mutually beneficial solution, and when the situation requires a high degree of cooperation and coordination. It is the ideal strategy for parties that are both assertive and cooperative.
5 - Compromising
Parties that compromise are willing to sacrifice something to reach an agreement. It is the middle ground between competing and collaborating. In this strategy, every party gives up a part of what they want, and no one gets everything they want.
Compromising is seen as the fairest method of resolving a conflict, despite the parties not being particularly happy with the outcome. It is best used when those involved are partially assertive and cooperative.
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Why conflict management training matters
Workers, especially frontliners, benefit greatly from receiving conflict management training. Being equipped with the knowledge and understanding to resolve conflicts on their own leads to improved relationships, better collaboration, and improved decision-making.
Conflict management allows employees to approach conflict in a way that minimizes stress and anxiety. The training can also sharpen problem-solving skills. The resulting improvement in worker relationships ultimately increased productivity and overall performance.
The performance of frontline workers is critical to the success of a business. When frontliners are not getting along well, their productivity is decreased and their mental health is affected. It’s important to strengthen ties between workers to decrease friction and reinforce relationships. Tools like the HR Clouds Workmates App can help you achieve this. Contact HR Cloud now for expert help.
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This article is written by a marketing team member at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of proven HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee communications & engagement, and rewards & recognition. Our user-friendly software increases employee productivity, delivers time and cost savings, and minimizes compliance risk.