Conflict is a common occurrence in any workplace. When left unchecked, it can lead to decreased productivity, morale and even turnover. However, with emotional intelligence in the workplace, you can better manage conflict and keep your company running smoothly.
Here are 10 ways to develop emotional intelligence in the workplace to better manage or avoid conflict.
1. Foster a positive company culture
Of course, this is far easier said than done. Pressure in the workplace is often substantial, and we are forced to deal with all manner of injustices in our day-to-day lives–from less-than-competent bosses to insulting coworkers. The key to managing conflict in these situations is to stay as calm as possible.
You may not be able to control the situation or the other person, but you can control your own reactions. Staying calm will allow you to think more clearly and make better decisions about how to proceed. Good control over your emotions is also part of strong emotional intelligence in the workplace and it speaks to a person’s ability to manage conflict.
Fostering a positive company culture helps your team to stay stress-free, which will make it easier to maintain control under pressure. It will also help them increase their emotional intelligence in the workplace.
2. Understand the emotions and triggers of employees
Good emotional intelligence in the workplace also means understanding the emotions and triggers of your employees. Understanding what employees are sensitive about or what makes them angry can help you to avoid or defuse potential conflicts before they happen.
In some cases, it may be necessary to have a conversation with employees about their triggers and how best to avoid them. This can be a difficult conversation to have, but it can be very effective in managing conflict long-term and is a good way to promote better company culture.
A great way to better understand your employees is through periodic 1:1 meetings. These are opportunities to get to know your employees, their necessities and professional goals. You can encourage managers to have 1:1 meetings with their employees once a month. You’ll see how it boosts the employee engagement level!
3. Promote being open and honest in the workplace communication
Honesty is something that people can struggle with in the workplace because a lot of us are afraid of the repercussions of actually being fully honest. Work is not like our private lives, and there are unspoken expectations that can make honesty seem like a risk.
However, being honest and open is one of the best ways to manage conflict. It can be difficult to do, but it’s worth it in the long run. When you communicate openly and honestly, people are more likely to trust you and feel like they can rely on you. This creates a much better foundation for working together, even when there are disagreements.
Creating a feedback culture is a way of promoting open and honest communication. You can send anonymous surveys to get to know your people’s pulse and give them a voice. They’ll have the opportunity to speak up and express any discomfort or issue without any fear or repercussions. It is anonymous! This will help you have a smooth work environment, making it easier for your team to develop emotional intelligence in the workplace.
1:1 meetings, check-ins and performance reviews are also some other ways on which you can promote open communication. These types of meetings will help build stronger relationships. As a consequence, your team will trust you. It will be easier for you to manage conflict and for your team to develop emotional intelligence in the workplace.
4. Try to get people to reflect on their own emotions and triggers
One of the biggest reasons for arguments and misunderstandings in the workplace or anywhere else is that people are not always aware of their own emotions. If you can get people to take a step back and understand what emotions they are feeling and why, then they will be in a much better position to manage them effectively and have emotional intelligence in bitter situations.
It can help to actually sit and write down the things that tend to trigger negative emotions. Once they have a better understanding of their own triggers, they can start to plan ahead and avoid or defuse situations that are likely to lead to conflict. This really is the essence of good conflict management.
You can organize a training session to show your team how to be aware of their own emotions and control them. During it, you can encourage them to write down all the things that trigger them. If you want a go on a deeper level, nowadays there are a lot of certificate coaches who can help you with it. Surely it will help them develop their emotional intelligence in the workplace and in their personal life as well!
5. Show the importance of understanding before being understood
This is one of the hardest things for most people to do because our first instinct in a disagreement or altercation is to make sure that our views are accurately and fairly represented. People with high-level emotional intelligence, however, understand that it’s more important first to seek to understand the other person’s position.
Only then can employees hope to accurately and fairly represent themselves. This doesn’t mean that they have to agree with the other person, but it does mean that they should try to see things from their perspective.
Make sure all managers are on board with this and have developed good levels of emotional intelligence in the workplace. They must be a good example for their teams and make them feel understood. It will create a domino effect, helping everyone to boost emotional intelligence in the workplace!
6. Promote active and empathetic listening
The foundation of good emotional intelligence in the workplace is being able to listen actively and empathetically to others and respond in a way that shows they understand each other’s feelings. This is something that a lot of us struggle with, ourselves included.
We can get so wrapped up in our own lives and our own thoughts and feelings that we don’t really listen to what others are saying. Conflict management often hinges on your ability to show others that you understand their perspective and that you’re willing to try and see things from their point of view.
What we just mentioned about your manager understanding their team applies here as well!
7. Diffuse tense situations with humor
There is an art to being able to inject humor into a tense or difficult situation, but when it’s done well, it can be very effective. It can help to lighten the mood and make people see that there is another way to look at the situation. It’s also a way of acknowledging the conflict without getting wrapped up in it.
Being able to deftly employ humor and levity to make people feel less stressed and more at ease is definitely an advanced emotional intelligence tactic because it requires that you be able to read a room. Incorrect timing or using the wrong type of humor can easily make a tense situation worse, so it must be done with care.
8. Encourage employees to use "I" statements and the SBI feedback model
“I” statements refer to the use of phrases such as “I feel” or “I think” when communicating with others. These phrases signal to the other person that you are sharing your own thoughts and feelings and that you’re not trying to make them wrong or force them to agree with you. Training employees to speak in “I” statements, especially in tense situations, rather than “you” statements, is a good way to showcase your emotional intelligence in the workplace, especially when doing things like giving feedback.
“You” statements, on the other hand, can come across as confrontational and aggressive. For example, “You’re wrong” or “You need to change your perspective.” Using “I” statements is a much more effective way to manage conflict because it shows that you’re open to hearing the other person’s thoughts and feelings and that you respect their point of view.
Some good practices that may help you and your team to handle better these awkward conversations are:
9. Encourage employees to avoid making assumptions
This means encouraging employees to be careful about the stories that they tell themselves about other people and situations. We all do it – we see something happen and then we come up with a story in our heads to explain it. The problem is that these stories are often based on assumptions and they’re not always accurate.
Making assumptions about others can lead to all sorts of problems, including misunderstandings and conflict. If your employees find themselves in a situation where they’re not sure what’s going on, it’s always best to encourage them to ask questions and get clarification. This is a much better solution than trying to fill in the blanks themselves and getting it wrong.
Fostering a feedback culture helps employees in these situations as well! It improves communication and builds strong relationships between team members. Remember if your people trust the company and their co-workers, it will be easier to keep emotional intelligence in the workplace.
10. Invite employees to take responsibility for their part in the conflict
There is nothing worse than someone who refuses to shoulder their share of the blame for a conflict or argument. Conflict management is about taking responsibility for your own actions and words and acknowledging when you’ve made a mistake. It also means being willing to forgive others when they do the same.
Part of good emotional intelligence in the workplace is recognizing that no one is perfect. We all make mistakes and we all have moments when we could have handled a situation better. The key is to learn from these moments and to do better next time. If you can take responsibility for your role in a conflict, it will go a long way towards diffusing the situation and preventing future problems.
Get to know your team in order to manage conflict at the workplace
Emotional intelligence in the workplace is a skill that every company MUST have for managing conflict. By being aware of your own emotions and the emotions of others, staying calm under pressure, and using “I” statements, you can diffuse difficult situations and manage conflict in a constructive way.
Using an employee engagement software will help you understand your people at a deeper level. It will give data about your people’s pulse, motivation and level of satisfaction. Also, building trusting and long lasting relationships with your employees will be much easier.
Saying it in a much simpler way, an employee engagement software will help you to easily identify any red flag in your company culture, so you can work on improving it every day. All thanks to the real-time data you’ll have about your employees!
You will be able to build a company culture everyone wants to belong to! Trust and confidence would become part of your corporate values, which will help you develop high levels of emotional intelligence in the workplace.