Workplace conflicts are inevitable. They can lead to a very toxic work atmosphere. How can you resolve conflicts in the workplace? What strategies can you implement?
Conflicts in the workplace are inevitable. With people from diverse cultural and intellectual backgrounds, age groups, priorities, and mindsets working together, it would be a surprise if there are no clashes in opinion. Conflicts, if not dealt with appropriately in the initial stages, could go out of control. Ignoring them is not an option. Workplace conflicts often top the list of reasons why employees may leave their job. So what is conflict resolution and how can this be achieved?
Unresolved and tensed conflicts could lead to decreased productivity and creativity, and the creation of barriers to collaboration and cooperation. They could affect the morale and the success of the organisation. Thus ensuring the resolution of conflicts is important for any leader, HR professional, manager out there.
Establishing conflict management processes is fundamental. Here are a few tips to ensure effective workplace conflict resolution.
Tips to resolve conflicts
Scheduling a meeting with those who are in conflict
Ensure that you conduct the meeting in a safe environment. The space should allow for an honest conversation between the antagonists. Ask them to name a time so that you can arrange a meeting at a convenient time for those involved to attend.
Allow them to speak briefly on the issue and ensure that each party gets equal and enough time to speak. Each person should talk about their viewpoints and disagreements. Intervene if either employee is attacking or intervening while the other is speaking.
Listening carefully to both sides
Listen attentively to both sides positively and assertively. Listening to them carefully will let them know that they are being heard. Ask questions to clarify your understanding. Rephrase what was said to confirm your understanding. Allow them to express their feelings. Any kind of emotion should be expressed and acknowledged.
Do not compare, contrast or conflate. Listen with an open mind.
Investigating and finding out the source of the conflict
Figuring out the source of the conflict is the first step in conflict resolution. The cause of the conflict will help you figure out how the issue grew in the first place. For that ensure you obtain all the information while investigating.
After listening to both parties, take time and investigate. Do not jump to conclusions. Investigate more about what is happening, the involved parties, and how other people are reacting. Clarify what the disagreement is and ask questions until you get to the heart of the conflict. Be thorough in your investigation.
Setting goals and responsibilities for both parties
After mutually accepting and agreeing with what is the disagreement, both parties should agree on the best solution. Sit them down and discuss methods to resolve the conflict. Set goals and responsibilities for both parties to achieve that solution. Request a verbal agreement. Total silence may be a sign of passive resistance.
Thank them after the meeting
Congratulate and thank them for making the progress of agreeing with each other on a solution to the issue.
Evaluating how things are going
Finding a solution and setting goals is not the end. Keep assessing the situation and see if the solution is effective. Ensure that the parties are meeting the organisational goals. Schedule a follow-up meeting after a few days to see how the parties are doing. Also, determine before-hand what you should do if the conflict is still unresolved.
Other workplace conflict resolution strategies to implement
Establishing a culture where conflicts are addressed
Establish open and honest channels to address conflicts. There should be clear channels for peer feedback. The employees should feel comfortable to bring their concerns and problems. Dealing with uncomfortable issues as soon as possible is the best way. Encourage your employees to address conflicts and figure out ways to work them out by themselves.
Looking out for conflicts before it is too late
Prevention is key in conflict management as well. Seek out areas of potential conflict and be proactive while intervening to prevent any conflict from arising. When a conflict does come up, you will be able to resolve it quickly because you have already identified and understood the natural tensions in the workplace.
Encouraging employees to look at conflicts as opportunities
Every conflict could be a huge learning opportunity in disguise. A conflict provides an opportunity to grow, improve, and develop. Conflicts also spur innovation, productivity, critical and logical thinking. Encourage employees to use these conflicts to positively grow.
HR can help their employees to learn dispute resolution skills and effective management skills. Conduct sessions and seminars to encourage effective communication. Training can be provided through one-day workshops, small-group facilitation, or one-on-one sessions. Training is recommended to HR specialists and managers as well.
Conflicts are normal and healthy. It is important for a successful organisation. Members of teams who are not hesitant to disagree and give their opinion prove to be the most effective ones.
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