A Guide to Solving Labour Disputes

Mesa de reunión de una empresa.

Any activity that involves social interactions can lead to conflict at any time. It happens in every area of life: personal, social, academic, work… The key is knowing how to solve them.

Having this problem inside companies is more common than we would think. We’re human beings and we spend a great part of our time in a single place with our coworkers. Arguments and problems caused by stress, the hectic pace or simple disagreements are bound to happen.

We must be able to differentiate between constructive and destructive conflicts.

A constructive conflict can be beneficial for the company since it lets teams bring forward different points of view and split opinions that will help arrive at better solutions.

On the other hand, the main problem that companies face with destructive conflicts among coworkers is that it jeopardises the stability, operability and production of the company, altering work rhythms, deadlines and final results.

Why and How Does Labour Conflict Occur?

Work environments are trouble spots, but other more emotional factors like ambition, envy, or professional jealousy also play a role. But, why does conflict occur?

  • Bad Communication: The main reason behind labour conflict. A deficient communication leads to misunderstanding between the parts and, in the work environment, you must be in constant communication in order for all tasks to be carried out correctly.
  • Different Views: In the workplace, each person faces the same situation in a different way. Thus, what may not be urgent for you may be crucial for others, which creates a conflict of priorities between both parts.
  • Interests: The problem starts when coworkers put their own interests above wellbeing in the company.
  • Different Goals: Common goals must be clearly established in order for each single worker to put common interests first and not act individually.
  • Role Displacement and Battle of Egos: Coworkers taking on tasks that aren’t theirs is more common than it may seem… And it makes it uncomfortable for the rest of the colleagues. When two people try to take on the same role, there’s going to be conflict to see who has the control of the situation.
  • Deficient Performance: When workers don’t take on their responsibilities and perform at the level they are expected, it causes problems in the work environment.

Solving Conflict: Keys for the Right Functioning of a Company

Spotting problems on time and knowing how to solve them correctly is fundamental for a company to work at its full capacity.

There’s no magic formula to solve a conflict among coworkers, but there are a series of items and techniques that can help us handle the situation better:

  • Active Communication: Whether you’re your own boss or you’re an employee, it’s fundamental to keep good communication with the whole team. Solving problems before they escalate will help you keep it under control.
  • Showing Appreciation: It’s not necessary to praise every attitude or gesture, but you need to learn to recognise when your colleagues do a good job. Satisfaction is very important. A satisfied worker causes less problems.
  • Self-Criticism: Applicable to all hierarchical branches of companies. Acknowledging success is convenient, but it’s more important to recognise your mistakes and learn from them so they won’t happen again in the future.
  • Prioritising Professional Affinity when Hiring: More and more companies are basing their hiring decisions on the impresion caused by the applicants instead of  their knowledge or CV. It’s no good to have very experienced professionals if they are not going to fit in with the rest of the group.

Conflict Resolution Techniques 

Companies use different conflict resolution techniques depending on their needs, the severity or the type of problem they need to solve. The most common ones are:

  • Easing: Used for light problems. The solution to these conflicts is usually an agreement on both parts and it’s solved diplomatically.
  • Mediation: It’s a more formal intervention than easing. When a conflict gets stuck in this stage, it’s assigned to an officer who exercises as a mediator. A space for dialogue is open where both bring forward their points of view and reach common ground between the parts.
  • Arbitration: Those involved delegate the resolution to a third party, who knows what each party is asking for, what the company can do and what’s best for the business. This technique is used for serious conflicts and requires a fast solution.

Conflict resolution is not easy. In order to prevent conflict, it’s important that each worker knows what their duties are, which goals they must reach and that they establish good communication. More and more companies reach out for coaching services in order to learn how to act in these situations.

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