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The use of soft skills training to manage conflict in the workplace

Few individuals are lucky enough to go through an entire career without ever experiencing a measure of conflict. In fact,  as many as 85% of employees, including leaders, experience conflict in the workplace at some point in their careers. (1). 

But conflict isn’t all bad. Over the years our understanding of conflict has evolved and what used to be regarded as a disruption to the flow of work, is now understood as a key to innovation and team performance.

So the question is how to move from avoiding and fearing conflict, to embracing and accepting it? 

Well, overcoming conflict and the negative stigmas associated with conflict, is possible through soft skills training. 

In a recent survey by Upskillist, 94% of respondents indicated that they believed soft skills, like problem solving, could be taught. However, 44% of respondents indicated that they had received insufficient training to deal with conflict in the workplace.

So the question is, what soft skills training will directly impact on the resolution of conflict? 

According to Dr Barbara Benoliel, we each have our own instinctive response when confronted with conflict. 

Collaborating:

People who aim to resolve conflict through collaboration attempt to work with the other parties involved to identify a solution that fully satisfies everyone’s concerns. Here, individuals are both assertive and cooperative.

Competing:

The competing style of resolving conflict includes assertiveness and competitiveness. Individuals tend to pursue their own concerns at another’s expense, often used by opposing companies competing for clients.

Avoiding:

Individuals aim to diplomatically sidestep an issue or simply withdraw from threatening situations. In this method of conflict resolution, individuals are unassertive and uncooperative.

Accommodating:

When accommodating, the individual displays an element of self-sacrifice and aims to satisfy the other person’s needs. 

Though this seems generous it could result in an advantage being taken and may cause resentment. An accommodating style is best used where preserving the relationship is more important than the outcome of the conflict.

Compromising:

Finding an expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies all parties is the aim of this resolution style. Individuals are both assertive and cooperative. 

Though our natural tendency may lean in a certain direction, each style can be rather useful depending on the situation. Learning how to resolve conflict in a way best suited to the situation rather than that preferred by the individual can improve overall results and reduce the negativity associated with conflict.

The impact of conflict on the workplace

A study conducted by the Center for Management & Organization Effectiveness  (1) concluded that most of the conflict in the workplace is as a result of misunderstanding, poor communication and poor leadership abilities. All of which can be addressed through soft skills training. 

The Upskillist soft skills impact report explores the differences between a variety of training programmes and the value that online training can play in learning and mastering soft skills.

By providing soft skills training in key areas, employees are equipped to deal with and reduce daily conflict and allow proper resolution of more serious offences such as discrimination and harassment.

In doing this, it’s possible to:

  • Increase employee satisfaction and engagement 
  • Decrease the time spent on resolving conflict
  • Lessen the impact of negative responses to unresolved or poorly resolved situations 
  • Encourage an accountable and diverse workplace culture
  • Increase employee and team productivity
  • Free up time for leadership and HR roles to focus on more profitable activities

Conclusion

Consider this quote by Thomas Crum; ‘The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them.’

Positive conflict can encourage individuals to grow, challenge the status quo to come up with innovative solutions, and push people to step outside their comfort zone to take on new challenges and improve their performance. 

Soft skills training not only helps individuals resolve immediate conflict but equips them to improve every aspect of their personal and work life with confidence.

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