Dealing with Conflicts in the Team: A Guide for Lab Managers

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In some workplaces, an element of conflict can be a positive thing. Two different ways of thinking coming head-to-head, inspiring individuals and teams to compete against one another – driving them towards better performance, new ideas and improved results. In a laboratory setting, however, there is absolutely no room for conflicts – it remains an environment where cool heads need to prevail and a calm and considered approach is an absolute must.

Despite this, conflicts can arise, with different parties looking to pursue varying methods to reach the end goal. It is up to the lab manager and other senior members of the team to ensure that disagreements are settled fairly and never veer into conflict territory. This is especially important in laboratories where expensive and potentially dangerous pieces of equipment are present – which could be damaged if a conflict arises.

With this in mind, we have put together this guide to dealing with conflicts in the team, providing five practicable tips.

  1. Nip it in the bud early

It can be tempting to see if a conflict will just naturally run its course and burn out over time. However, this is not always the case, and problems and resentments can grow and intensify over time. Furthermore, the longer a conflict is allowed to continue unresolved, the more likely it is that other people will become involved. What could start as a petty difference of opinion between two people could soon evolve into a full-blown power struggle between teams.

[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]As soon as a conflict shows signs that it will not die down within the same working day it started, it is time to take the first steps to intervention. Calmly check with both parties what their individual concerns may be – and see if you can immediately identify a rational and balanced resolution. If this is not possible, it is time to consider the second tip.

  1. Seek impartial mediation

If you are the lab manager senior to both the parties involved, your prolonged intervention could represent a conflict of interest. Should you be seen to favour one party over the other, this could lead to ongoing resentments from the party involved as well as those who are loyal/connected to them. This means that a conflict that is not immediately solvable should be taken to an impartial mediator.

In the best-case scenario, the business or institute you work for has an HR department or an individual working in an HR capacity. These are the professionals who should be helping the parties reach a resolution that suits everybody. Their impartiality will help to smooth any sense of resentment, and their skills should prepare them to create a resolution which you may not have thought of.

  1. Create a roadmap for resolution

Whether you have called in the HR department or not, a resolution roadmap will help you keep all parties on the long road to a better working environment for everybody. Pinpoint practical targets for everyone to aim towards, a process you can measure, and the warring parties can keep to.

A less defined plan for resolution can easily fall by the wayside and never help anybody, whilst a plan with greater definition could represent an opportunity for growth and even collaboration. This roadmap could take many forms, but perhaps the easiest process is to set six targets for the party to achieve over half a year. The plan could look a little bit like this:

Month one: Allow a member of your team to collaborate with the other party.

Month two: Provide lab access during your normal working hours.

Month three: Contribute to a presentation from the other team.

Month four: Share insights and research from the latest workings.

Month five: Combine findings where practical.

Month six: Outline a collaborative project for the future.

Whilst the above may only be relevant in certain situations, there will almost certainly be a roadmap that any given conflict can adhere to. This plan can also help you identify touchpoints where you can observe the progress, leading on to…

  1. Set regular catch-ups

It’s important to ensure that you keep in touch throughout the process and beyond the resolution to ensure that all parties are cooperating, and the conflict is not at risk of returning. If you sought impartial or HR support in the initial stages of resolution, it would be good to lean on them again in all follow-ups. They can help maintain the impartiality, and keep everyone focused on the overall goals of resolution and peace.

Encourage all parties to be totally transparent and honest, so any seeds of doubt are immediately brought to light and can be tackled head-on. Additionally, staying on top of a conflict from emergence to resolution and beyond, can give you a greater insight into how these things develop, can be managed and how individuals react. So, if a similar situation might arise in the future, you will be better prepared.

  1. Keep notes and be consistent

There’s always the chance that there is another conflict brewing around the corner, so you may be called upon to use your new-found conflict resolution skills again. Therefore, it is important to take detailed notes of every step of the process – so, you have a guide for the future.

Not only will this give you a basis from which to work, but will also give you the best possible chance of staying consistent across all scenarios. If your resolution processes are deemed inconsistent, poorly weighted or even unfair, this will only compound the issue and could increase the resentment.

After all, whatever the conflicting parties are wishing for, they will all fundamentally wish to be treated fairly.

We hope this guide has helped you prepare for any eventuality or chance of conflict in a lab setting, and we believe there are no lab-based issues that can’t be resolved, especially when all teams have the same end goal in sight. 

InterFocus can help you build the laboratory that’s perfect for you and your team. For more information about our bespoke fitted labs, visit our homepage or call our team on 01223 894 833.

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