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Published on January 28, 2021

The Most Effective Strategy To Resolve Conflict At Work

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The Most Effective Strategy To Resolve Conflict At Work

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there—and by “there,” I’m talking about being in an uncomfortable situation at work. Whether you’re smack dab in the middle of it or on the sidelines watching it unfold, it’s rarely easy to manage. That is, of course, until now! That’s because after over two decades of working in different departments for large organizations—and now running my own company—I’ve been exposed to my fair share of workplace conflicts, and I’ve learned the most effective strategy to resolve them effectively (but not without my own fair share of mistakes!).

Let’s start by talking about a few of the reasons why workplace conflict exists. It could be because you work in a highly competitive environment. Competition brings out the worst in us sometimes because we all want to win. So, if you work in a place (especially in sales) that ranks success based on performance, it’s super easy for conflict to arise.

Maybe you work in a place where you have blatant favoritism going on.[1] I’ve seen this scenario unfold a few times in my career. An example is when a manager assigns their favorite person or people the best performing accounts and gives the underperforming accounts to other team members, therefore, stacking the odds against some people. Unless it’s resolved in a way that benefits everyone, it can go horribly wrong.

Finally, you could be in a workplace situation that is unstable—especially right now in the current climate. Lots of companies are streamlining operations to be able to keep the doors open, simply knowing that information can cause stress and overwhelm employees, making the environment difficult to manage.

The good news here is that none of the above scenarios are impossible to fix. In fact, if you’ve got tools and resources to address them, you may even be able to head them off at the pass. That’s what good leadership is all about. Being able to “read the room” and anticipate situations are helpful traits to have when you’re the one possibly having to address and resolve the conflict.

Leaders are not just heads of companies, CEOs, or people in supervisory roles. We all have leadership qualities and responsibilities in our own lives. Whether it’s being the head of your household or a team member at work—each of us has a responsibility to step up and be a leader in different situations. When we’re talking about resolving conflict at work and you have a strategy to resolve or help fix it, consider yourself a leader.

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Let’s just say you have a conflict at work, and you want to know the best way to approach it to find an amicable resolution. I’ve got an idea for you.

Here is a 3-step strategy to resolve conflict at work.

Step 1: Identify the Problem

What’s the actual issue? There are multiple sides to every story based on the number of people involved in the situation. The first thing you need to do is get to the bottom of the problem. Uncovering the root cause of the issue is your main goal during this phase.

Put on your investigator hat and do some digging. Look through your email to see if you can pinpoint a problem. If you’ve been documenting the issue, revisit your notes, and ask your peers for their observations. You won’t be able to resolve the conflict without the whole puzzle being put together. It might take a little time, but it’s better to have all the information (facts). this way you can come to an educated resolution.

Pro tip: while you’re in this phase, make sure you’re reviewing all of the information you’re receiving with an open mind. Try your best to not form any solid opinions until you have all the information you need. It’s not easy to keep emotions out of situations, especially if you’re directly involved. So, do your best to keep it professional and under wraps. If too many people catch wind of what you’re up to, they might want to join in on a discussion they aren’t a direct part of.

Once you feel like you’ve got your information gathered, create a timeline or outline of the events that caused the conflict. This way, when you move on to step number two, you’re ready with your data.

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Step 2: Communicate

Communication is an art form. Being a good communicator takes work and commitment to continue learning. Communication is not just about talking, it’s also about body language, listening, and how you present yourself through your online tools such as email and social media.

Anyone can talk—but how many of us can truly listen and observe?

One of the first things we want to do when we find ourselves in a conflict situation is to immediately react. We want to say all the things or fire off an email that’s full of accusations and defense. That’s one of the worst things you can do—not only because words are important and can be hurtful but because by reacting, you haven’t had the time to consider the entire situation.

It’s best to step away from doing something you may regret later. That’s why when you’re in the communication phase of conflict resolution, your response to statements and situations should be thoughtful and professional.

A lot of disagreements can be resolved more smoothly simply by the way the issue is addressed. Communicating effectively to your peers and teams is a sign of strong leadership.

When the time comes for you to address the data and information you gathered while identifying the problem, bring your level head, open mind, and thoughtful heart to the conversation. Explain your observations or your own experience of the situation in a way that is straightforward, concise, and informational.

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Allow others to do the same and really listen to what they are saying. When you take the time to listen, you may be able to uncover additional information. Effective communication is a key strategy in resolving conflict work.

Pro tip: A thoughtful response goes longer than an angry reaction. As the saying goes, “you catch a lot more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

After you’ve had your thorough discussions with the involved parties and everyone has had an opportunity to express themselves, it’s time to move on and resolve the conflict.

Step 3: Resolve It!

It probably won’t happen overnight, but it can happen if you can find a way to agree and move past the situation. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s not impossible.

Think of a time when you’ve been able to successfully overcome a conflict in your life—what did it take to get to a resolution?

Sometimes, a handshake is enough to fix the problem. But if it’s bigger than that, it requires a plan. Working together with your peers to create a goal-oriented resolution is one of the best ways to stay on task, focused, and organized.

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Remember when you were a little kid and your mom made you apologize on the playground after you had an altercation with a friend? Well, this is similar. Begin every resolution with an acknowledgment of your involvement and an apology (even if you think it’s not warranted).

I can’t tell you how much smoother the resolution process goes when you have the ability to forgive and forget it. Release the anger, find the learning opportunity, express gratitude for the growth, and apologize for your part. Doing all of those things is really putting on your big people pants and showing your peers that you’re willing to move forward.

When you work together to take action, you ultimately have a clean slate in front of you with a lot of opportunities to create change. If you’re in an environment that has antiquated systems, policies, and procedures, it could be a good time to revisit those things and create new ones.

Pro tip: Not all conflicts are bad, and most can be resolved with some good old-fashioned teamwork and commitment to success.

Final Thoughts

It’s not easy resolving conflict, especially when you feel like you’re the one getting the short end of the stick. But trust me, when you approach the situation using this strategy to resolve conflict at work, you will have the ability to look at conflicts from different perspectives, which ultimately results in personal and professional growth.

More Articles About Strategies to Resolve Conflict at Work

Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via unsplash.com

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Reference

More by this author

Krista Rizzo, CPC

Transformational Life Coach, TEDx Speaker, Author & Founder

The Most Effective Strategy To Resolve Conflict At Work How to Be a Good Listener (And a Better Communicator) How To Express Yourself Authentically And Confidently

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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