Being able to deal with conflict and negotiate are two skills that are highly valued in society, not just business and organizational behavior. Instances of confrontation are not isolated to the professional world, and many people develop these abilities through personal experience in throughout their lives. When they do enter the professional world, they strengthen these skills even more. This is regardless of the industry or company culture that they are a part of.
Conflict management and negotiating skills are one of the many abilities that business seek out in their employees. In some professions they are a requirement needed to get the daily tasks of the job done. In others, they're just a good thing to have on hand when you need them. Either way, there is quite a bit of value found in having conflict management and negotiating abilities in business and organizational culture. This article will explore what exactly is involved with these skills and how they can be effectively used in the workplace. Information on how to improve both abilities will also be included, as well as what can be done to prevent conflicts from developing in the first place.
Not all conflicts are the same, and this is largely because there are several different types of conflict that can present themselves in the workplace. Depending on the existing dynamics of a business, the type of business, its size and location, and the position you have in that business can result in more conflicts of certain types. Those that work in retail and customer service may encounter more client or customer conflicts than, say, leadership conflicts.
- Client or Customer-The person that coined the phrase "the customer is always right" must never have worked in customer service. These tend to be a regular occurrence for employees in sales-related positions, as disgruntled customers tend to confront employees about their dissatisfaction with products or services.1 Regardless of if the employee is at fault for the issue at hand-of if it was something that the business even had control over-customers will still hold them accountable. These can occur with alarming frequency and can hurt the business' reputation.
- Interpersonal and Personality-Conflicts between employees are often rooted in things like attitudes and personality. It doesn't matter if the relationship between employees is in good or bad standing when conflict develops, as things can change. These usually occur when disagreements take on a personal note and emotions get involved.2 In some cases stress could be a factor; people can snap at their closest friends when they are under pressure and tensions are running high. When conflict develops between employees who normally not get along, changes in their interactions and attitudes towards each other can act as a warning sign that things are about to escalate.
- Discriminatory-Discrimination-based conflicts can be the worse at times, as it can feel like a personal attack and can have serious legal repercussions for those involved. Organizational behavior that isn't welcoming towards diversity can be at a greater risk for discriminatory conflicts, as prejudice and misinformation that's already there can lay the foundation for it. Managing and resolving these conflicts need to be done so carefully, as attempts to deescalate the situation can accidently escalate it. The entire staff may need to be addressed as well.
- Leadership-Differences in leadership and management styles can lead to conflict when members of the team disagree with their superiors. Inconsistencies between leaders can negatively contribute to the situation and be frustrating for employees.3 In some cases, leaders from different departments or areas of the business that are made to work together can clash. A power struggle can develop over who is in charge and who is secondary, instead of being equals, and trigger conflicts further down the chain of command. Normally, whoever is next up in the hierarchy is able to act in the capacity of moderator or negotiator as they tend to be the supervisor of the feuding leaders.
- Responsibility-Instances of responsibility-related conflicts are sometimes treated as interpersonal conflicts because they can share some similarities. Usually, the primary difference is how they start: someone is blamed for a task not being done correctly or at all. The person who is responsible may shift the blame to someone else to avoid punishment, which may include termination in severe cases. These can also occur if leaders accidently blame the wrong person for a mistake, which can generate hostility and conflict between the employees and with the leader.
Solutions to Take to Resolve Workplace Conflicts
Resolving a conflict in the workplace can get complicated. Unfortunately, conflict needs outside help in order to resolve; it can't do that on its own and will most likely escalate if ignored.4 The nastier disagreements can turn physical or drag uninvolved bystanders into the fray (employees, upper management, customers, the police, etc.). Those who have the responsibility of resolving workplace conflicts-whether they ask for it or not-need to be quick on their feet and able to analyze the situation while remaining neutral. While each situation is going to be different, these solutions can be applicable with a little bit of modification.Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Organizational Behavior in Business course?
- Address the Situation Directly-Skirting around the issue or handling it with kid gloves isn't going to help resolve any kind of conflict. If there is a conflict developing between staff members, action needs to be taken quickly and directly at the source. One mistake that managers make in dealing with conflict is that they expect the business' human resources (HR) department to handle it if things get serious. Unfortunately, things tend to be past that and are affecting the business and other employees when HR gets involved.5 As soon as a manager or other authority figure is made aware of the situation, they should step in and try to find a resolution.
- Don't Separate the Conflicting Parties-While it may seem like a good idea to split up employees who are fighting with one another, it can inhibit a true resolution from being found. Separated, each party will often attempt to sway moderators towards their side of the issue.6 It can be harder to not emphasize with their stories by meeting with them individually, and it often generates a lot of back-and-forth and story inconsistencies. If you have to separate them, do so to allow each one to calm down and then talk to them together to find a resolution.
- Remain Neutral-It may be difficult, but resolving a conflict without remaining neutral can cause unfair bias in your moderating. Office loyalties and friendships can be a strong force of persuasion in conflict and arguments. Even for those in a management position, a business' friendly atmosphere may make it difficult to not empathize with either of the employees involved. In cases where managers are one of the conflicting parties or they have a clear loyalty to one of the people involved, you may need to go further up the chain of command or find someone from another department that is unrelated to the situation to act as a truly neutral moderator.
- Don't Blame-Directing blame does not help anyone and can actually lay the groundwork for future conflict. In a fight or after one, people will through blame around to divert punishment away from themselves and to further harm the other person.7 Unless you are blaming yourself by taking responsibility for the situation, then the idea of blame should not even be considered in resolving a conflict. Instead, focus on the facts of the situation and what can be done to solve the problem at hand in a way that everyone involved is happy about.
Now there are a few ways to avoid conflict, but there is no guarantee that they will be successful. Conflict is such a normal part of life that it can spring up unexpectedly or without you realizing that it was developing.8 The best thing that you can do to avoid conflict from occurring is by paying attention for the warning signs and taking action as soon as possible. The state of a business' organizational behavior can contribute to the development of conflict, so any necessary changes to improve it should be enacted right away. Businesses are not always going to be successful in their efforts to prevent conflict, and that is just a fact that employers need to accept. The world isn't a perfect place, but people make the most of it.
Why Negotiating Skills Are Important in Organizational Behavior
Negotiation skills are important to business and organizational behavior because of what they can allow a person to do in times of conflict. They are key to resolving conflict and solving problems amongst employees. A good negotiator is able to remain neutral when emotions are high, pay attention to details, communicate effectively, and seek out compromise.9 These are all skills necessary in maintaining and shaping organizational behavior.
In some areas of business, one of the primary duties an employee has each day is to negotiate. This is applicable to those who are in the legal industry, real estate, law enforcement, and education, to name a few. Those who negotiate professionally have turned it into an art form that is now second nature to them. It is a skill that can be continually honed in the ever-changing landscape of the professional world, which makes it a nearly priceless asset.
How to Improve Your Negotiating Skills
So how does one go about improving their negotiating skills? The amount of work needed depends on how well you are able to negotiate now. Think about instances where you had to resolve issues: what did you do? How did you react? What obstacles were there? Asking these questions can help you determine where you need to improve and how to go about doing so.
- Pay Attention to Body Language- Body language makes up a significant amount of what a person is trying to say. Even if the person you are negotiating with is audibly silent, there may be physical cues that they are involuntarily giving you. Paying attention and learning to interpret these movements can be like reading a person's mind, and can help you determine how well a negotiation is going.10
- Understand and Recognize Limits-Negotiation cannot be used as a way to force someone into doing something or into giving you what you want. Every person has their limits and you need to be able to recognize when someone reaches theirs. If you push someone's limits too hard or too far, then they can lash out at you and you may end up starting another conflict instead of resolving one. You and your abilities have their limits as well; trying to force yourself to continue negotiating when you're out of steam will only bring things to a standstill. It may also make it easier for the other person to use their negotiating skills and get what they want from you if you end up exhausting yourself.
- Look For Holes-When it comes to negotiating in an effort to resolve conflict, there is often two different narratives about the situation: what actually happened, and what the person wants you to think happened. A person may make changes to the false story as they tell it because they are largely making it up as they go; it's not thoroughly thought through and they can't remember the details very well. This can cause them to make mistakes and leave holes in their narrative. All you need to do is catch one and you can unravel the truth of the matter.
- Aim for a Win-Win Outcome-In negotiating, you want everyone to come out of the situation happy with the results. Everybody wants something, and that can be a contributing factor in how the conflict started in the first place.11 Aiming for a win-win or a compromise can help prevent further issues or resentment between those involved and against you. It's an equal outcome that keeps things neutral. Look at what started the conflict in the first place and listen to what both sides are asking for to find a resolution.