Workplace conflicts can be one of the greatest causes of employee stress. Employee’s stress and many related health complaints, bullying claims and workers’ compensation can be prevented if managers act quickly to resolve the issues between co-workers and maintain a healthy work environment. Human Resource is one of the key departments of every organization.

However, there are businesses such as some startups, which run without it. In such cases, the duties of HR are performed by the management instead.

Conflict can arise when individuals are unclear about their respective areas of responsibility so that one person believes that another is trying to take away his authority and responsibility. In some situations, conflict may occur when two workgroups are pursuing incompatible objectives. On a personal level, conflict can arise when one individual thinks that he can tell another person what to do, but the other person refuses to follow his instructions or recognize his authority. Conflict may occur due to the nature of the work involved so that for one person or group to ‘succeed’, another group has to ‘fail’.

When no HR, their duties are performed by the management instead

The most appropriate measures of dealing with conflict will vary according to the circumstances. Conflicts can be resolved primarily by paying close attention to the needs of the co-workers, maintaining organizational hierarchy, organizational development, taking disciplinary action, emphasizing the interests and rewards, managing conflicts of interest and ethical conflict resolution, good communication, establishing certain job roles, maintaining disciplined attention and effective team management.

1 – Pay careful attention to each person’s concerns

Whilst trying to resolve the conflict, do not bring the issues that the individuals do not want to talk about. Resolving workplace conflicts can lead to a positive professional culture and healthier professional relationships.

2 – Maintaining an organizational hierarchy

Most of the conflicts related to delegation of work can be prevented if an organizational hierarchy is maintained within the organization at all levels. This can be done by maintaining a matrix organizational structure for some of the activities of the organization. So that if conflicts arise they can be resolved among the relevant individuals irrespective of taking up to the Head of the two. Obviously, conflicts can arise i.e. the project manager might want to skip some tests to make up time; however, the quality control department won’t accept that. Both will then put the employee under some pressure. However, the matrix structure should allow the employee to ask the two managers to discuss the problem, as it is certain that they are both involved in the conflict.

3 – Organizational Development (OD)

Organization development is the planned and systematic approach to enabling sustained organization performance through the involvement of its people. The Australian Human Resources Institute has described the benefits of Organizational Development. They include putting the minds of employees to work, enhancing the quality and speed of decisions and making conflict constructive rather than destructive. This can be done by team-building, career development, training and HR courses, innovation, talent management, change management, organizational assessments and coaching and leadership development.

4 – Taking disciplinary action

Every organization requires its employees to meet certain performance standards and behave appropriately at the workplace. A Disciplinary or corrective action is the way to communicate to the employee to improve his conduct and performance. Disciplinary action may be taken when other ways of resolving conflict e.g. counseling, performance appraisal etc. have not been successful. However, for the serious cases of misconduct, the management may choose to advance straight to the disciplinary action.

Before deciding upon which disciplinary action to take, management has to keep in mind the very purpose of the discipline. The goal of this disciplinary action is to guide the employee towards a better performance or an appropriate conduct. The process has to be constructive and should not be meant for punishing the employee.

5 – Emphasizing the incentives and rewards

It is important while negotiating to emphasize on the incentives and rewards if the conflict is resolved productively by both the parties. The actions that can be operated in order to circumvent deadlock in the final stages of the negotiation process are:

  • Comprehensive and convincing explanations can be offered as to why the concessions sought by the other party cannot be accepted.
  • Expressing willingness to review the matter or concessions pursued by the other party in the future.
  • While attempting to finalize the main contract, providing an ancillary contract consisting additional advantages in the future for both parties
  • During the final phases, subtly stating the consequences, must the negotiation fail and emphasizing the advantages to both parties leading them to a win-win.

6 – Conflicts of interest and ethical conflict resolution ( in case of accountants)

When accountants are faced with an ethical conflict, they need to know what to do. If there is a threat to their compliance with the fundamental principles of the ethical code, how should they ensure their compliance and deal with the threat? There are two possible approaches that the professional accountancy bodies could take, a rules-based approach and a principles-based approach.

  • A rules-based approach is to identify each possible ethical problem or ethical dilemma that could arise in the work of an accountant and specify what the accountant must do in each situation.
  • A principles-based approach is to specify the principles that should be applied when trying to resolve an ethical problem, offer some general guidelines, but leave it to the judgment of the accountant to apply the principles sensibly in each particular situation.

7 – Communication among the co-workers

Elton Mayo was the first management theorist to draw attention towards the social aspects of working and the effects of motivation on the performance of the individuals. Motivation and productivity is affected by the relationship between management and workers. Managers need to communicate with workers. When there is no communication, conflicts are inevitable, and workers resent the focus of management on cutting costs and improving efficiency. Managers must play the role of “disturbance-handlers” in resolving the conflicts and disputes and dealing with other similar problems. Management must, therefore, develop and apply ‘people skills’ in order to motivate their workers. Managers should become more involved with their workers, and earn the respect of the workers. The result would be improved motivation amongst workers and higher productivity.

8 – Establishing certain job roles and responsibilities

Conflicts can arise due to role ambiguities among the employees. It is necessary to create certain and fixed job roles and responsibilities to resolve the conflicts among the group members. The simplest way is by giving praise to the employees and other measures etc. This is usually common in organizations where employees are ambitious and want to succeed in a short span of time. Such conflicts can be minimized if the job descriptions are set and even if another employee works on behalf of another, he must be credited for it. He should be recognized and such a clause must be included in a proper recognition system such as “employee of the year”.

9 – Maintain disciplined attention

The leader must get conflict out into the open and use this as a source of creativity. Constructive conflict among individuals leads eventually to collaboration and agreement. The leaders most likely to succeed are those who make followers aware of their responsibilities.

10 – Effective team management

In an effective team, team members identify themselves with the team and feel a part of the team. Team spirit and team loyalty is strong.  Positive conflict occurs when there is disagreement, but the team members are willing to discuss their differences fully and reach a suitable agreement about what the solution should be. Some conflicts are inevitable in teams: the way that the conflicts are resolved is important.  In an ineffective team, the team members fail to resolve their differences properly. Disagreements are not discussed fully. They are often resolved by an ineffective compromise that ‘patches up’ the differences of opinion, and the compromise might not last for long.

These are the 10 ways in which management can effectively resolve workplace conflicts without the need of HR.

One of the tasks of management is to evaluate the performance of the workgroup for which they are responsible. Performance evaluation is linked to planning, coordination, and control. Measuring and evaluating team performance is also necessary when there is a system of team incentives and rewards.

Conflict among the staff can adversely affect the quality of work and its effectiveness and may further deteriorate the workplace environment. However effective conflict resolution can bring radical changes, open communication, improved dialogue, improved customer service, encourage innovation and result in constructive levels of tension within the organization proving positive for the organization as a whole.

Management must maintain the organizational performance by the three measures; economy, efficiency, and effectiveness.


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