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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:

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  • 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.

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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]

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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.

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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

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Margaret Olatunbosun

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

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

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