We all come across various conflicts in our day-to-day lives. Conflicts with parents, friends, or spouse, and we also learn to resolve them because they’re close to us. But what about conflict resolution in the workplace? Workplace conflict resolution is more difficult because it involves individuals who don't know each other's temperaments.
As a leader, you will undoubtedly face friction within your team. As a result, conflict resolution has become an essential leadership skill. Great leaders not only can identify conflicts but also design feasible solutions to solve them.
Good conflict resolution allows for a better employee experience. When company conflicts are resolved constructively, the team bond strengthens. It promotes strong work relations and a positive work environment.
But before we delve into the ground rules of conflict resolution in the workplace, let’s understand:
What is Conflict Resolution?
Conflict resolution is nothing but the process of resolving a dispute between two or more people. Conflicts can happen between coworkers, managers, managers, teammates, or even between the service provider and clients.
During such a conflicting scenario, negotiation is the key to resolving a conflict. A negotiated agreement is a faster process of dealing with conflict. It helps you to identify the solution and come to a consensus. It improves internal relationships among employees.
According to Cambridge Dictionary, conflict means,
An active disagreement between people with opposing principles or ideology.
Key pointers you should look out for in the definition-
Active, Disagreement, and Opposing
So, resolving conflict follows the same logic as a problem-solving scenario-
- Making the opposing parties reach a common ground.
- Resolve the disagreement.
- Turn the active into passive.
It sounds like a piece of cake, right? Well, it isn't. If it were so easy, you wouldn’t be looking for conflict resolution solutions)
The true test of a manager or the HR department is not when things are going well but when things go wrong.
A study by the American Management Association (AMA) found that managers spend 24% of their time managing conflict in the workplace, often without any guarantee of resolving the conflict.
What is the Importance of Conflict Resolution?
"Conflict can destroy a team which hasn't spent time learning to deal with it." - Thomas Isgar
Conflict resolution is crucial to maintain a productive and motivated workforce. With the help of conflict resolution skills, you can:
Fully understand the ideas, personalities, and beliefs of your workforce. It aids in gaining a fresh viewpoint.
Assists in the creation of positive team relationships.
Conflict Resolution Skills
Many skills come in handy while resolving conflicts in the workplace. A leader must develop this set of skills to maintain peace and harmony in the workplace.
So, in this section, we've included few examples to help you understand conflict resolution skills.
Empathy- An essential aspect of conflict resolution. Empathy helps you to understand a person even when you disagree with a situation or an argument. It helps you treat everyone with love and respect.
Active Listening and Communication- when conflict situations arise, it is essential to express strong emotions and become active listeners. It only indicates your sincerity towards their feelings and emotions. You must genuinely hear them out and not think about how you’re going to respond.
Forgiveness- The willingness to forgive coworkers and staff for their mistakes is vital for conflict resolution. If someone behaved unfairly but later apologized, then it calls for simple forgiveness.
Impartiality- Practicing equality is crucial while resolving conflict in the workplace. Suppose you’re mediating a dispute between two or more employees; you must remain impartial and show no sense of favoritism towards a particular person. If they feel you’re partial, resentment and conflict will fester.
How to Resolve Conflict in the Workplace?
Now that you know about conflict resolution skills and values, we will discuss the vital steps to conflict resolution in the workplace.
It is difficult to point out one process or method for conflict resolution because it depends on aspects like:
- How many people are involved?
- What are the types of conflict?
- How serious is the situation?
- What are the reasons and motives?
As a leader, you must find a fair solution to compel opposing sides to accept an agreeable compromise.
You must remain impartial and unbiased and listen to everyone with diligence.
Here are the 9 Steps to Ensure a Successful Conflict Resolution in Your Workplace.
1. Understand the Conflict
This is the first step to conflict resolution because you must understand the conflict and your position as a resolver before communicating. It is essential that you have understood the root cause of the conflict and then act accordingly.
To successfully understand the conflict, you must:
- Make both parties clarify their interests
- Think about what they care about in the conflict
- What’s bothering them, and what is their primary concern?
- Think about the conflict from their perspective
- Think about how you can make them reach an agreement
2. Look Out for Alternatives
If you find employees who are facing a conflict and cannot reach a consensus, it is time to explore alternatives. In such a scenario, you must consider the following things:
- What is the compromise that both parties will settle for?
- What will you do to make them agree?
- Take advice from senior managers or HR leaders.
- Then compare the list of solutions and decide the best conflict resolution strategy.
3. Find a Suitable Place
A conflict is full of turmoil in itself, and resolving a conflict requires calm and peace. Hence, it would be best to find a suitable place with no disturbances or noise when in a conflict resolution situation.
The ultimate objective of finding a neutral and private location is to ensure:
- Elimination of tension
- Privacy and confidentiality
- No unnecessary interruption
- Calm and composed behavior
Manager’s office, a closed conference room, or private cabins are the best places to hold a conflict resolution meeting.
4. Communicate Effectively
Now that you have understood the conflict and chosen a private and neutral place to hold a conflict resolution meeting, it is time for you to communicate and negotiate. Here are some tips for communicating effectively and resolving a conflict with an efficient outcome:
Be an active listener- You must hear them out. Do not get biased or show a lack of interest while listening to their concerns.
Encourage equal participation- If you’re dealing with two or more people, make sure everyone gets a fair chance to speak and raise their concerns. This helps in identifying a solution.
Never assume- Come with an open mind. Do not hesitate to ask questions to know the situation better. You must thoroughly understand their position and yours as well.
Remain calm- You might come across emotional and violent situations while resolving a conflict, but you must remain calm. You must not get carried away and stay clear and firm on your decisions.
5. Mind Your Body Language
As an employer, you must be aware of your body language while resolving a conflict. This is done to maintain composure, open-mindedness, and the ability to express the message confidently.
Here are some excellent practices to maintain your body language. Take a look:
- Maintain eye contact
- Be conscious of your expressions.
- Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.
- Use a neutral tone with a moderate voice.
- Avoid using absolute words like “never” or “always.”
6. Identify a Common Goal
Usually, conflicts occur due to misunderstandings between workers, managers, and clients. Workers work towards common goals but have different opinions on how to reach the goal. This is when conflict arises.
It would be best if you encouraged open discussion among team members. Let them discuss what their interests are. Once the conflicting parties agree on the desired outcome and identify the common goal, you can start working on the conflict resolution.
7. Take Help From a Third-Party Mediator
If the conflict is becoming tricky, it is helpful to take help from a trustworthy third-party mediator. Ensure the third-party people are known to the conflict parties and trust them to make a fair decision. Some possible responsibilities of the third-party are-
- Listening to both sides attentively
- Finding common interests to come to a consensus
- Treat everyone with respect and provide reasonable negotiations
- Looking for win-win solutions.
8. Brainstorm Solutions
Now the time has come to think about the best solutions for conflict resolution in the workplace. You should have a clear grasp of the dispute, the concerns, and the common goals by now. Gather multiple ideas and look for win-win solutions where all the parties desire to agree.
- Discuss the ideas openly.
- Provide the pros and cons of each solution
- Take employees’ opinion on the best idea
- Build a sense of personal commitment
- Give both sides ample time to decide on the best agreement.
9. Agree on a Plan of Action
After following all the steps, everything boils down to identifying the best solution and coming to a common ground.
Ideally, you must give your employees the best possible outcomes, which are win-win situations for all. Let them decide which solution works best for them. However, if you do not see that happening, look for an option that everyone will agree upon and commit to.
In The End
Conflict resolution in the workplace is one of the most challenging areas to deal with it. The challenge intensifies due to its nature of sensitiveness. But as a manager or a human resource professional, it is part and parcel of the job. Conflict is inevitable in the workplace, and taking disciplinary action on employees every time will only make things worse.
If problem-solving is a highlight of your CV, then you cannot hide when a conflict arises in the workplace. You should make sure you bring every conflicting employee to a common ground, look at every point of view and finally handle conflict in the workplace.
If you can adequately address conflict, you will become a leader everyone looks up to!
Of course, there is no guarantee that these methods will work, but if you don't try, there is 100% chance that you will fail!