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How to Manage Conflict in A Startup Management of human resources also entails that you are capable of managing conflict at your workplace

By Swati Sinha

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As an entrepreneur, you are captain of your ship and your every move in tackling any organizational conflict should be measured .You are building an organization with team of people, who are working and collaborating towards a bigger goal. Management of human resources also entails that you are capable of managing conflict at your workplace. We all have seen news of conflict, breakup and clashes within startups . It can be between co-founders, management and employees or between coworkers.

As founders or managers of team, our attitude towards these conflicts has far reaching implications on how we design and manage our startups. We can have two common approaches, first is to dominate and control and second to foster participation and solicit the views and feelings of employees. Second method will always be more effective, if cause is identified in the early stages of conflict.

Conflict is a natural outcome of human interactions, if understood and managed effectively can lead to increased creativity and innovation, rethinking of goals and practices and better informed work group. This article has been divided into three parts: Causes of conflict , Outcome of conflict and Solution for conflict.

Causes of Conflict:

A keen observation of workplace will open a plethora of reasons which lead of discontent, disagreement and conflict within or outside teams. Every conflict has some underlying reason, and the ones mentioned below form some of the majorly discussed reasons of conflict.

1. When the goals, beliefs, attitudes and ideas are incongruent with those of another individual. Ex- Two individuals may be in conflicting situation due to their difference in reward structure or job profile . Their job may not be aligned to their idea of sob satisfaction, or their personal goals. Such issues lead to interpersonal conflicts.

2. When individuals feel their input is not accepted or they have been assigned a very general task. People want to be valued and appreciated. If a team leader or manager ignores your input or does not give desired importance to your participation, it leads to conflict. If an employee feels that he is given a task which undermines his capabilities, that leads to a conflict too.

3. Unfair Evaluation - If management is not evaluating the performance of team on the basis of a concrete score card, founders are going to face a setback due to underlying dissatisfaction and conflict.

4. Unrealistic Work Laid - This is again a problem which is commonly faced and least discussed. As a startup, you need to evaluate the capacity and skill set of team and assign the task accordingly. All of them cannot be super heroes.

5. No Feedback - No feedback to your team is like telling they don't exist and their work is not visible or maybe they are not valuable. Feedback is given to help them understand their real performance and remove any brooding discontent within the team.

Outcomes of Conflict

Conflict is showcased by humans in various ways .There are five basic behaviour responses:

1. Avoiding- The person, situation or issue

2. Adjusting - Or giving in to the situation.

3. Compromising - Both parties make adjustment.

4. Competing - Forcing to satisfy ones desires.

5. Collaborating - This is towards problem solving and best way to resolve the conflict.

Solution to Conflict

Here comes the major part of conflict management and we we know that problem is solution in itself. Best way to manage conflict is collaborating . An effective way can start by:

1.Short-term Avoidance - It is a very effective way to deal with a conflict, as it allows time to both the parties to regain their composure and rationally think through the issues and circumstances of the conflict.

2.Have a Score Card to Evaluate their Work - As a supervisor, it conflict is happening due to difference in their evaluation or respective rewards, keep a score card handy. This score card should be accessible to everyone in the company to evaluate their work and progress .Team leaders can use it as reference to evaluate the performance or team and provide them conflict. It would keep a parity in the team about their expectations , performance and rewards .

3. Feedback sampling from conflicting parties , peers and team leaders - Keep a track of conflict , the level of engagement happening between members. If its project based or some other underlying issue , discuss it with the members . If they are interacting on daily basis , you can give them liberty to chose other team .

4.Sometimes giving the involved parties in conflict that how this issue has caused stress, poor productivity, feeling of guilt , and loss in monetary terms. Adjusting their inputs or outcomes in actual or perceived terms is one way of managing inequity.

5.Final solution although not advised though is, dismissal , monetary penalty and demotion etc .

Now, when we have seen the causes and effect of conflict and also learnt better methods to manage them , we need to up skill our team leaders and management in goal setting , scheduling work , goal clarification , interpersonal communication , greater care in choosing team .

If the management tries to remove the common issues, causing frustration in team, it would he highly beneficial. Companies are made of people and handling the most important resources is a major goal for stakeholders.
Swati Sinha

Founder & Principal Advisor, Savanna HR

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