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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 11 Tips on How to Resolve (Almost) Any Conflict in the Workplace
- How to Resolve Conflict in the Workplace Effectively
- How To Handle Personality Conflicts At Work
Featured photo credit: You X Ventures via unsplash.com
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