5 strategies that can be used to manage conflict in the workplace in Nigeria
Nigeria is a wonderful country. From the hustle and bustle that occurs every single day and night to the people who have a certain dexterity about them, it is generally agreed amongst people globally that if you can make it in Nigeria, then you can make it anywhere else. In the Nigerian workplace to be precise, the hustle and bustle of the streets now boils over into the working environment creating what would normally be a serene environment to something that is quite similar to a wrestling ring due to the sheer tension that hangs over the air of the typical Nigerian workspace.
Disputes in this state of dynamic chaos become more frequent, tempers get lost more easily, people become highly irritated at the slightest provocation. As such, conflicts of all types and sorts break out all over the place; often without people realizing that it was the environment that created such a cause and effect situation in the first place.
This of course brings us to the need for the management of conflict. Having known that conflicts must occur in our day to day interactions as human beings; especially in an environment like Nigeria where nothing is stable ( power , water and so on and so forth), what must be learnt by anyone anywhere is how to manage the conflicts that have the high probability of occurring. The following represent five typical techniques that people often employ when they want to resolve conflicts:
- Collaborating: In this method, long analytical conflict resolution processes are usually undertaken (long peace meetings, negotiations and agreements) with the aim of making sure that all the parties win (I win, you win). In collaborations, all the individuals in the conflict resolution process who most likely participated in the conflict itself are looked upon as team players and family members than as opposing figures or combatants. The process is trust dependent as all the parties involved must bring something to the table as proof of trust. This is where this method has its drawbacks. Trust can be abused by any party and then the whole process is made redundant. This process is also resource consuming as resources which could have been deployed elsewhere will most likely be used up here.
- Compromising: In this method, there exists mutual suspicion amongst the conflicts participants but however, there is a willingness to work together to bring about the overall resolution of the conflict. Here, the meetings are much shorter as each member of the negotiating process would most likely be trying to outwit the other. This is where long term goals and objectives of the team and organization are usually put on hold or let go altogether because of the competing egos of the conflict participants. Everybody in this process usually gives a little to the process. Concessions are usually required. However, the big question is that even if concessions are given today, what about tomorrow? The fundamental issue about conflict is that it is always bound to occur and so static concessions will most likely solve today’s problems making tomorrow to become another dark cloud sometime in the future.
- Accommodating: This method has to do with one party conceding for the other to have his or her way and as such the other party wins. This method allows for the protection of the relationship due to the fact that one party is willing to step down for the other. Credibility and influence of the party that steps down in the process is usually the problem in this method of solving conflicts. Also, the other party standing down will be seen as weak and that does not help especially if that specific party is a leader in the team or the organization. The best way this methods works is when there are two or more parties that are close and one party really wants to preserve the relationship. Resentment can also be felt if the conceding party does not hold his or her emotions in check.
- Competition: This method involves a fight to the finish. This is where two parties need to have the matter resolved once and for all so that it can become obvious who is the victor and who is the vanquished. The problem however is the loser does harbor resentment and will avenge himself or herself when the opportunity will present itself. Sometimes as well, it might just be one party standing up to another party who is a big bully. This also is dangerous as the fall out can go in any direction that may eventually destroy the fabric of the team if it is not handled properly. Also, the long term effect of such a method is that the members of the team spend more time fighting with each other than working towards achieving the goals of the organization.
- Conflict avoidance: In this method, there are essentially no winners nor losers. However, the danger of such an approach is that such a conflict may arise later at some time in the future when most people may have indeed forgotten about the matter at hand. Also, when one party simply does not possess the ability to take on the other, avoidance is usually the method employed. The danger therein is that the offending party will keep offending until the other party explodes and then there will be a problem that was bigger than the first.
Although the above represent the methods of conflict resolution, there must exist practical strategies that may be employed to balance these strategies so that they can be employed in proportion to the conflict that may exist on the ground. The following depicted below are practical strategies that can be employed in the balancing of conflict:
- Take time to understand the situation: sometimes in the heat of the moment, we lose touch of what’s really going on around us. This happens most especially in heated moments of conflict. So, understanding is key. How? By taking deep breaths during such a period will allow for a slowing down of the individual and will let you to see what is really going on. Not as things appear to be. In order to calm the other party down, soft words may be used. This is one surefire way that someone’s who has been angry will become calm.
- Try and remain calm: Now this is the difficult part because emotions are involved. This is because remaining calm will create the necessary atmosphere for even the other party to calm down as well. Remaining calm gives the situation the necessary water to the fire that previously existed. Being calm also creates self-awareness in the calming party. It can also create that same sense of self awareness in the other party as well should both parties engage each other calmly.
- Accept that there is a problem: The issue with most people is simple ego. They cannot accept that something has gone wrong somewhere in their relationships with people. Once this level of acceptance has taken place, it now becomes a given that both parties may then decide to resolve their differences. One thing that occurs for sure during this process is that both parties are further away from the heated moments prior to their calming down.
- Try to listen: Most people do not really know the difference between hearing and listening. Hearing is just a momentary action which is more physical in nature (that is using the ears to hear). Listening however, is both cognitive and emotional as the party that is listening has made the decision to do so. Listening involves the process of trying to understand what both parties are trying to tell each other. Is the other party saying something that you may not have previously understood? What exactly is he or she trying to say? What does he or she really mean? These questions provide insight into how listening can lead to understanding.
- Be patient: it is at this point that most people lose it and do not understand that the other party may just require patient listening so that the situation can be resolved once for all time. Patience in listening is a skill that many people do not possess. This is because we are living in a fast paced world that is getting faster all the time. So, this pace will have to be maintained until something interrupts our chaotic lifestyles like conflict! So you see, patience works!
- Speak gently: When you get to state your case, be gentle! This will show the other party that you’re actually interested in solving the problem rather than being the problem. So, this now gives you room to also explain yourself. Do not give yourself any brownie points during this process. This because the other party by now would have calmed down enough for you guys to have a normal conversation; but the other party would still be suspicious of you. I mean if you were in such a person’s shoes, you would also do the same thing!
- Make the problem your focus: If you’re trying to solve the problem, make sure you refer to the problem as the issue between yourself and the other party and not the third party as being the issue. That way, you can get the other party to think about the problem the way you’re thinking about it!
- Focus on the future, not on the past: This is about making the problem to become a thing of the past. In your language, make sure that you let the other party know that you’re all about the future. This approach will put the other party on the same page with you!
In the end, you can realize that everyone at some point or the other in the workplace has had some sort of conflict which is always not palatable. Getting angry at someone is not the problem. It is how that anger is handled that brings these conflicts. What incidents have you had as regards conflicts? How did you resolve them?