Advertising
Advertising

Published on December 3, 2018

11 Tips on How to Resolve (Almost) Any Conflict in the Workplace

11 Tips on How to Resolve (Almost) Any Conflict in the Workplace

It takes a lot to lead people who have the same desire, dream, and vision. It is even more challenging to lead transformation and change in people who are deeply entrenched in tradition and have a rigid way of thinking. As a result, it is not uncommon for conflict to arise in the marketplace due to a difference in opinion and communication styles.

However, not all conflicts in the workplace are bad.

Healthy conflicts are good. An absence of conflict is an indication that critical thinking and a quest to question existing processes is missing in the organization. It is a huge red flag that suggests every thought or behavior is heavily moderated by someone or some people who hate criticism of any kind.

But what happens when things go awry and no one is listening at all? How do you get back on track, strengthen weakened relationships, and resolve conflicts before they become catastrophic to the entire organization?

Here are 11 tips on how to resolve almost any conflict in the workplace:

1. Identify an Outcome for the Resolution

The very first thing you need to determine as you head into a conflict resolution meeting is what you want to achieve.

Unlike most relationships, not all conflict resolutions in the workplace end with hugs, handshakes, and selfies. With that said, your approach to conflict is going differ depending on the outcome you want to achieve and/or your personality type.

There are different types of approaches to conflict resolution. They are:

Advertising

  • Collaborative: In the collaborative approach, both parties aren’t burning bridges or trying to drive the other to ruin. Instead, they mutually work together to discover best practices and solutions to problems they experience.
  • Avoidance: This is very self-explanatory. With this approach, you ignore whispers, grunts, comments, and anything deemed offensive. Although the avoidance approach is not advised, it’s best used when stakes are very low and the relationships between both parties isn’t going to deteriorate.
  • Accommodation: With this approach, you’re considering the other party’s needs as more important than yours at the moment, and are willing to let them “win” in order to arrive to a peaceful solution. As this approach suggests, there is yielding from one party in the attempt to please the other.
  • Compromise. Compromise means each side gets to make mutual concessions and are willing to work together to come up with mutually pleasing outcome to both sides. With this approach, there is no loser as individuals or corporations strive for a balance with their demands.

So, the results of your resolution really depends on the degree of conflict, the type of conflict, and the outcome you want.

A disagreement between a company’s employees who belong to a union and the company’s management will take on a different approach from an interpersonal conflict between two employees in the same department. The stakes and outcomes are different which means there might be a combination of 2 or more styles of approaches to conflict.

2. Set Some Rules

The old adage that says it takes years to build relationships but few moments to ruin them is true. As a result, there are rules for how to approach conflict resolution. It doesn’t matter how minor the conflict is, you need to set some rules for how to approach resolution.

Rules are not meant to be constraints; rather, they help you operate within the boundaries of strengths which often lead to favorable outcomes. When managing conflict among co-workers, it helps to have a set of standards that everyone adheres to.

It’s not just this; rules provide a sense of security and and an assurance of fairness, something that is very much a contradiction to conflict in the first place.

Examples of such rules (depending on the degree of conflict) include: asking employees to temporarily step away from their positions, restricting authority granted to employees, or subjecting all parties involved to a formal, linear process towards resolution.

3. Invest in Your Communication and Listening Skills

Conflict resolution depends on your ability to not only hear what’s been said but also to decipher the nuances of words, body language, ‘sighs,’ and even silence. Add in several variables like religion, cultural background, ethnicity, gender, and economic differences and you have a complex case of epic misunderstandings.

This means that what an employee born in the United States finds assertive might be totally inappropriate for someone who was born and raised in a different country.

Advertising

Your excellent communication and listening skills will enable you to step away from the societal norms, break away from patterns that pigeonhole your decision-making skills, and open you up to different perspectives so that you can identify cues for repairing strained relationships.

4. Hold Face-To-Face Meetings

Whenever you can, always aim for a face-to-face meeting. It is challenging to convey emotions in emails because the effect of nonverbal communication is lost behind computer screens and mobile phones.

When it comes to resolving conflict, we don’t just speak and hope for the best to happen because we intend them that way. We engage all aspects of nonverbal communication. Things like tone, vocal range, micro expressions, and body language can communicate more than a simple “I apologize” in the body of an email.

5. Avoid Personal Attacks

While there could be intense emotional response to not being heard, it is important that personal attacks be discouraged and refrained from during the process of conflict resolution. Rather than result to ad hominem attacks, you should adopt a better way to communicate your feelings.

Examples of how to do this includes emphasizing the use of I-messages. With I-messages, you’re taking control of the dialogue and how the behavior made you feel. So, instead of saying “You are so rude!” when addressing conflict, a better way to communicate your displeasure without diminishing how you feel would be “I feel disrespected when you chew your gum loudly while I’m teaching in class.”

I-messages not only caters to your emotional needs, it encourages you to take responsibility by acknowledging how your actions could have contributed to the breakdown in the relationship.

6. Avoid Assigning Blame

Similar to the point above, assigning blame or taking sides is one sure way to dissolve a relationship faster than repairing one. It is human to find fault in something or someone other than ourselves. However, the goal of conflict resolution is to reduce the likelihood of shouting matches of who’s to blame and this starts by taking responsibility.

In an article by Make a dent Leadership, two types of stories in any conflict are identified:[1]

Advertising

One is the story we tell ourselves to justify what’s happening, and the second story is one you tell yourself about others.

These stories can either put you under a blameless spotlight or label others in a negative light. But for conflict resolution to take place, assigning blame is not an option.

7. Hire an External Mediator

Sometimes conflict is so intense that both parties can’t seem to find a middle ground. That’s okay. In this case, it is worth it to hire an external mediator. A mediator is someone who is trained in the areas of conflict management, negotiation, and is a skilled facilitator for many cases.

According to the American Bar Association, a mediator is often needed when settlements are at a stall.[2] Not only is a mediator often required by the court sometimes, it is also less expensive and doesn’t involve a drawn-out process a normal trial would.

8. Find Common Ground

Finding common ground means searching for ideas, interests, and beliefs that are shared between opposing parties and using this to open the lines of communication for further negotiation.

This sounds easy but is actually quite challenging to put to practice. If it were this easy, there would be no reports of conflict between people, corporations, and nations.

However, when everything else fails, finding common ground can be the very thing that brings opposing parties back to the table to negotiate a mutually beneficial solution.

9. Stick to the Facts

It’s easy to fall into the trap of digging up events that happened days, months, or years ago in an attempt to shift blame to a different party. But this only makes things worse.

Advertising

No matter how tempting it is to emphasize how emotionally hurt a behavior made your feel, the goal of conflict resolution is to focus on the facts instead of the interpretation of it.

For instance, if somone stepped on your toes while she was on her way to her cubicle, it should be stated as “Sarah stepped on my toes” not “Sarah tried to get be angry this morning.” This anger is an emotional response, an emotion you control, not Sarah.

10. Identify Barriers Preventing Change from Happening

According to HR Daily Advisor, identifying barriers to change helps you define what can be changed, what can’t, and how you can get around these roadblocks.[3] Organizations can hire the best mediators or personal development experts but until they recognize and address the barriers preventing change, all efforts to settle differences will fail.

Just like you can’t treat or administer medications without having a medical diagnosis, you can’t begin to change processes and ideas without unraveling why there is friction between both parties.

11. Initiate a Conflict Management Policy

Not every conflict should degenerate into a full-blown newsworthy affair. But in order to maintain an atmosphere of respect and mutual understanding in the workplace, there needs to be a documentation of acceptable behavior and steps to take should interpersonal conflict get out of hand.

These predictions of behaviors or expectations are usually contained in documents also known as policies or employee handbooks.

A conflict management policy is a lighthouse that helps you navigate disagreement of varying levels and stakes, and an organization should never be left without one.

The Bottom Line

It is perfectly normal to experience conflict. Healthy conflict inspires growth and innovation while drawing out the gifts inside of you. The key is to recognize the shift from health to unhealthy and begin the steps to restore a balance to existing relationships.

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Margaret Olatunbosun

Creative coach who teaches high-achievers how to thrive at the intersection of creativity, passion, and profit.

13 Ways Living with Purpose Makes Your Life Happier and More Fulfilling 11 Tips on How to Resolve (Almost) Any Conflict in the Workplace How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed What Is an Apprenticeship and What Value Can It Bring to Your Career? 13 Tips on Switching Careers by Honing in On Your Transferable Skills

Trending in Smartcut

1 There Is More to Life Than  ____________ 2 How to Start a Company from Scratch (A Step-By-Step Guide) 3 How to Lead a Team More Effectively and Be a True Leader at Work 4 The Very Best Interview Questions Employers Must Ask to Hire the Elites 5 Why You Can (And You Should) Quit Your Job Because of Stress

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on December 2, 2018

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

7 Public Speaking Techniques To Help Connect With Your Audience

When giving a presentation or speech, you have to engage your audience effectively in order to truly get your point across. Unlike a written editorial or newsletter, your speech is fleeting; once you’ve said everything you set out to say, you don’t get a second chance to have your voice heard in that specific arena.

You need to make sure your audience hangs on to every word you say, from your introduction to your wrap-up. You can do so by:

1. Connecting them with each other

Picture your typical rock concert. What’s the first thing the singer says to the crowd after jumping out on stage? “Hello (insert city name here)!” Just acknowledging that he’s coherent enough to know where he is is enough for the audience to go wild and get into the show.

Advertising

It makes each individual feel as if they’re a part of something bigger. The same goes for any public speaking event. When an audience hears, “You’re all here because you care deeply about wildlife preservation,” it gives them a sense that they’re not just there to listen, but they’re there to connect with the like-minded people all around them.

2. Connect with their emotions

Speakers always try to get their audience emotionally involved in whatever topic they’re discussing. There are a variety of ways in which to do this, such as using statistics, stories, pictures or videos that really show the importance of the topic at hand.

For example, showing pictures of the aftermath of an accident related to drunk driving will certainly send a specific message to an audience of teenagers and young adults. While doing so might be emotionally nerve-racking to the crowd, it may be necessary to get your point across and engage them fully.

Advertising

3. Keep going back to the beginning

Revisit your theme throughout your presentation. Although you should give your audience the credit they deserve and know that they can follow along, linking back to your initial thesis can act as a subconscious reminder of why what you’re currently telling them is important.

On the other hand, if you simply mention your theme or the point of your speech at the beginning and never mention it again, it gives your audience the impression that it’s not really that important.

4. Link to your audience’s motivation

After you’ve acknowledged your audience’s common interests in being present, discuss their motivation for being there. Be specific. Using the previous example, if your audience clearly cares about wildlife preservation, discuss what can be done to help save endangered species’ from extinction.

Advertising

Don’t just give them cold, hard facts; use the facts to make a point that they can use to better themselves or the world in some way.

5. Entertain them

While not all speeches or presentations are meant to be entertaining in a comedic way, audiences will become thoroughly engaged in anecdotes that relate to the overall theme of the speech. We discussed appealing to emotions, and that’s exactly what a speaker sets out to do when he tells a story from his past or that of a well-known historical figure.

Speakers usually tell more than one story in order to show that the first one they told isn’t simply an anomaly, and that whatever outcome they’re attempting to prove will consistently reoccur, given certain circumstances.

Advertising

6. Appeal to loyalty

Just like the musician mentioning the town he’s playing in will get the audience ready to rock, speakers need to appeal to their audience’s loyalty to their country, company, product or cause. Show them how important it is that they’re present and listening to your speech by making your words hit home to each individual.

In doing so, the members of your audience will feel as if you’re speaking directly to them while you’re addressing the entire crowd.

7. Tell them the benefits of the presentation

Early on in your presentation, you should tell your audience exactly what they’ll learn, and exactly how they’ll learn it. Don’t expect them to listen if they don’t have clear-cut information to listen for. On the other hand, if they know what to listen for, they’ll be more apt to stay engaged throughout your entire presentation so they don’t miss anything.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via farm4.staticflickr.com

Read Next