3 Secret Weapons for Handling Internal Conflicts

06/24/2015 05:20 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2016

Regular internal conflict can halt productivity within an organization. Constant disagreement creates toxic behavior. In these instances, colleagues are inclined to dislike one another and frequently rile each other up. Simple conversations almost instantly deteriorate into petty bickering and finger pointing.

Most companies with strong corporate cultures have developed behaviors that automatically squash internal strife and promote teamwork. To foster a good and harmonious work environment that champions collaboration and is free of discord, here are three important things that will improve the way all your team members react to conflicts.

Rope Everyone In

Often times, management may pull aside two quarreling colleagues to sit them down and talk through specific problems. While that may help improve relations between both coworkers, other team members who may have been affected by the disputes may still harbor anger and resentment. Sometimes, too, the benefits are only temporary, as the resolution merely places a bandage over wounds instead of healing them from the source.

That is why Don Maruska, author of How Great Decisions Get Made, recommends companies take a more proactive approach.

"Enlist everyone who has a stake in the issue. Shuttle diplomacy doesn't work," he says. "You need to get people in the room--not only the primary protagonists but also others affected. Often, these additional people bring balance to the discussion and encourage bigger thinking." This also helps set the tone that no one has to feel alone or helpless when interpersonal issues arise at the office.

Build a Routine

Contentious situations generally begin after repeat offenses. Over time, that devolves into shouting, public shaming and disputes concerning the smallest of things. To prevent a workplace from becoming unnecessarily hostile, businesses should develop routines in which safe, critical conversation is encouraged and expected.

Workplace expert Marta Moakley of XpertHR suggests "structuring informal check-ins with employees (perhaps on a monthly basis) as part of an organization's performance management system." This should provide insight into any barriers affecting morale and productivity. During these check-ins, individuals can air grievances and management can begin to solve root causes of the issues and prevent future conflict.

"Regular check-ins can provide an open, unintimidating forum to raise issues that can then be handled in a proactive manner by all parties," says Moakley. "An effective supervisor should then act on the information -- but should be careful to address any struggles from a perspective that would assist all involved in succeeding, not from a perspective that would focus on conflict or exacerbate failure." In this scenario, everyone comes out a winner.

Take Advantage of Curiosity

What is the antidote for animosity? Mother-and-daughter duo Kathy Taberner and Kirsten Taberner Siggins of Institute of Curiosity believe the secret weapon is curiosity. Why? Because genuine interest is disarming.

"When we change the dance and become curious, everything changes," say Taberner and Siggins. "When we feel that emotion begin to creep in, we can shift to a place of curiosity, asking an open question (begins with who, what, where, when, how or why) of the other person. We immediately notice we feel better. If we stay present, focused on listening to the other person and ask a second open question once they have responded to our first question, we will notice we feel even better, now relaxing and [being] more open to the other person." Behaving this way, in a positive and productive manner, may even cause your opponent to reciprocate.

This post originally appeared on the Central Desktop blog and is republished with permission.