Work lives consist of more than just hard work. A major segment of your work life depends on your relationships with co-workers. Spending a large portion of your day with your co-workers can be extremely uncomfortable if you do not have a good working relationship with them. Yet, conflict at the workplace is to be expected, as in any relationship, especially if you spend so much time with a certain group of people, each with varying ideas and approaches. And although conflict is only natural, and can even prove to be a good thing sometimes, there is a thin line between healthy competition and conflict. However, it is important to focus on an effective way to defuse conflict and manage it in a helpful manner, rather than watching what could be a spark of healthy competition turn into a blaze for irreparable workplace conflict. As a leader, here are some things to keep in mind and ways in which you can curb conflict in your team and hopefully cultivate an environment of healthy competition. 1. Listen Humans have different opinions on almost every situation. And that part is natural. While people might think that a difference in opinion is the reason for conflict, it is most likely the reluctance to accept a colleague’s point of view that is causing stress. So find ways for your team members to listen to each other’s opinions, reasons, and perceptions. Everyone will come a good ways from that, learning something new about their peers, themselves, or both. Encourage an open work environment where different viewpoints are met with no judgement. As a leader you should also listen to what your team members have to say if conflict at the workplace is to be controlled or resolved at all. They can give you the best feedback. So it bodes well for you to keep your year to the ground and use what they have to say in order to address any conflicts or potentials for conflict. 2. Empathize with your peers Empathy is an underrated quality at the workplace. Encouraging an environment where empathy is exercised will allow you to maintain a healthy working environment among your team members. This will in-turn build trust among the team members and instead of a toxic environment, you will be able to nurture an environment of growth and innovation. 3. Prioritize finding the best way to end conflict at the workplace Whatever the cause of the conflict might be, there’s possibly an underlying issue that is triggering the need to create conflict among one or more of your team members. Which is why it is essential to maintain an environment that seeks and prioritizes solving the root problem. If a problem is not nipped at the bud, it has the potential to escalate in ways you might not imagine. So, in order to have a team that works collaboratively and productively, do not allow an issue to fester. Or better still, do not allow an issue to appear to begin with. Instead, find ways to redirect possible points of contention into healthy competition that will prove beneficial to the whole team. 4. Maintain a zero-tolerance policy Having a zero-tolerance policy about violent and undesirable language among team members will also help you keep conflict at bay. In this case you will need to be ready to take strict action against anyone who does cross the line. Unless a strong policy is met with strong implementation, it will fail to work. 5. Encourage communication It goes without saying that robust communication skills are an absolute must in every situation. So, encourage your team to frequently spend time engaging in activities that are not work related. This will help them improve their communication with each other and lead to fewer miscommunications and misunderstandings. With respect to conflict at the workplace, it is essential to remember that conflict is an eventuality. The important thing is to have a plan in place for when it happens. Either to diffuse it, or better still, to turn it around into something that everyone can learn from.