In any environment where humans co-exist, conflict is inevitable. The workplace is no exception. In the workplace, people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds, with different moral standards have to work together to achieve a common goal and conflicts thrive on diversity. However, because conflicts are inevitable doesn’t mean that they should be encouraged or allowed to thrive. When conflicts exist, teamwork and productivity suffer, this is why they must be resolved as soon as they arise. This article shares 9 great tips for conflict resolution in the workplace.
1. Communication is Key in Conflict Resolution
Quick question: if you give your partner the silent treatment when they offend you, does it make the problem go away? Exactly! Never ignore conflicts. Even though at times it might seem like the best solution (especially if you dislike confrontations), unresolved conflicts always surface again in the near future. Whenever it feels like there is friction in the team, and more tension than perfume in the air, take the initiative and bring it up for discussion.
2. Listen more than you talk.
So maybe the issue started with you, a coworker passed by your desk and happened to spill the contents of their flask all over you on their way back from lunch break. In the heat of the moment, you reacted and gave him a dirty slap on the left cheek. Now, the office is divided into two groups with your supporters on one side and his on the other side. Please, when your manager calls for a meeting to address the issue, try to listen more than you talk. It can be hard because you want to explain how it made you feel, but you cannot understand the other person if you don’t give them a chance to explain.
On the flip side if you are the manager, try to remain unbiased and allow each party to express themselves. Listen to both parties separately, and give an audience for them to talk over the matter together. The goal of conflict resolution is to gain understanding and find common ground.
3. Identify the root cause of the conflict
Back to our case study, imagine that the two men involved pretend that nothing happened as soon as the manager steps into the office. Fast forward to a week later, there is tension hanging in the air, as thick as a bar of soap from arguments arising between members of the team that are on opposing sides. As a manager, you should try to clarify what the main cause of the conflict is by speaking to each party involved individually. It is only when a problem is solved from the core, that the peace will be long-lasting.
4. Focus on the attitude, not the person.
When resolving a conflict, focus on admonishing the parties involved for their attitude rather than berating their personality. Try not to bring up past events that the employee was also involved in, or drag personal issues you have with him into the matter.
5. Make a priority list of the areas of conflict
In cases where the initial problem instigated a series of events, make a list of the areas of the conflict that need attention, and deal with them one after the other in order of priority. For example, in resolving the conflict in our case study, you will need to address the arguments instigated by the accident, before attending to the accident itself.
6. Develop an action plan to resolve the conflict.
When resolving conflicts, the goal is to find common ground between erring parties, getting each one to settle for a compromise. The road to compromise is the action plan. For our case study above, the action plan may be to have the guy with the flask buy his colleague a new shirt, and the drenched coworker will need to apologize to the former for the slap. Of course, the rest of the team who got into arguments in the course of supporting who they think is right will have to apologize to each other.
7.Stay committed to your action plan.
Follow through with the action plan and ensure that all parties involved keep to their own end of the bargain. If more conflicts arise in the course of following through with it, you may have to review the action plan.
8. Maintain peace.
Set policies that will keep the team members in check, to prevent a recurrence. For our case study above, this may lead to rearranging the office space and moving furniture around to create wider walking routes so there will be no more bumping into tables.
9. Involve HR
For conflicts too big to be resolved in a round table team meeting, you should involve the Human Resources department. These guys are experts trained to handle problems involving human interaction in the workplace, some things you will have to leave for them to handle professionally. In a case where office property is destroyed in a fight, or the company’s rules and regulations are violated, you may have to relieve the parties involved of their duties.
Take-Home on Conflict Resolution
Conflict management is one of the most valuable soft skills you can have in the career world. It is nearly impossible to have a team of people working together and not expect conflicts to happen. Little arguments and disagreements sponsored by diversity, are bound to happen. However, when these small conflicts arise, they should be resolved immediately to prevent them from growing bigger and potentially turning the office space into a toxic work environment. A pro tip to reduce the possibility of conflicts is to promote team spirit by organizing activities that help with team bonding.
Remember, the quality of our relationships is not measured by the absence of conflicts, but by how we respond to them. I hope you found this helpful. Cheers to maintaining office peace and increased productivity via conflict resolution!