Alpha Jones CSFM
Alpha Jones, CSFM

More than Grass with Alpha Jones: Conflict Resolution

According to many different studies, most people do not like conflict and will go out of their way to avoid it when possible. Conflict in the workplace is the most unavoidable. When it occurs, it affects the flow of the day, the productivity of the people involved, and creates an imbalance in the team or office. It can be challenging to navigate because it involves people who often must continue working together despite their differences. This creates a unique dynamic where resolving conflicts becomes not just a matter of personal preference but also a professional necessity.

In many workplaces, conflict can arise from differences of opinions, communication styles, work habits or even personal biases. These conflicts can manifest in several ways – from minor disagreements to full-blown disputes.

The key challenge in creating a path through workplace conflict is finding a balance between addressing the issue and preserving working relationships. Ignoring the conflict may lead to resentment and tension, while confronting it head on can escalate the situation and damage trust.

I attended the school of hard knocks while learning to navigate through the different steps of managing conflict resolution. It was a challenge and, more importantly, a learning experience.

My scenario involved two part-time staff members on my baseball grounds crew – a crewmember and a seasonal team leader. The tension between these two started because the crewmember did not care for how the seasonal team leader spoke to him. I noticed a change in their body language when around each other and could hear tension when speaking; however, their comments would stop when around me. The friction between them became obvious to others around them anytime they shared the same space.

I tried what I believed to be good tactics that I thought would work. I spoke positively about whichever person was not present; I avoided conversations of high substance with either of them; tried to keep it cordial and loose; and focused just on the work at hand. I even assigned them work tasks together, thinking that would help or force them to settle their differences.

It is fair to say these were not great tactics – in fact, they were gasoline to their fire. The situation got worse before it got better. I tried speaking one on one with each of them, with the full intention of listening to them and the reasons for their dislike for each other.

Unfortunately, the crewmember did some other things that were against company policy and resigned before facing the consequences. My tactics were not as effective as I had hoped. In the end, individual discussions and bringing the two of them together was not effective. I did learn the importance of clear communication from the choices I made and the impact it had in each phase of this conflict and attempted resolution.

Effective conflict resolution in the workplace requires a combination of communication skills, emotional intelligence and problem-solving abilities. It often starts with creating a safe and respectful environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their concerns without fear of retaliation or judgment.

Managers and team leaders play a crucial role in facilitating conflict resolution by actively listening to all parties involved, acknowledging their perspective, and guiding them toward finding mutually acceptable solutions. This may involve mediating discussions, facilitating compromise or implementing formal conflict-resolution processes.

Additionally, fostering a culture of open communication, empathy and mutual respect can help prevent conflicts from escalating and promote constructive dialogue when issues arise. Training and resources on conflict management can also empower employees with the skills and confidence to effectively address conflicts.

Avoiding the conflict between my staff members was not the answer to the problem. I failed them when I did this, and it was an uphill climb to steer the situation in a direction that would bring an end to their conflict. I had to convince them to work with me, and each other, toward resolution.

Ultimately, successfully navigating workplace conflict requires a collaborative effort from everyone involved, with a shared commitment to understanding, cooperation and finding common ground. By approaching conflicts with empathy, patience and a willingness to work toward resolution, organizations can transform challenging situations into opportunities for growth and positive change.

Alpha Jones, CSFM, is director of field operations for the Fayetteville Woodpeckers, MiLB affiliate of the Houston Astros. He also serves on the SFMA Board of Directors as Secretary-Treasurer.