When you work together in an organization, there is always going to be conflict. There are conflicts of personality, conflicts of ideas, conflicts of values, or perhaps someone just has a bad day and feels the need to take it out on someone else. Regardless of what the reason for conflict is, it is essential that it is resolved before something gets out of hand. This requires quite specific skills, and here are some great tips to make sure you can deal with any sort of conflict that may arise in your workplace.
Do Not Solve The Problem
This seems like strange advice. After all, isn’t the only way to resolve conflict to find a solution? The issue is, however, that immediately jumping to a solution may seem like you are being dismissive of the conflict in the first place.
“It’s easy to want to take sides to move a decision along. Take the time to listen to the complaints. I tell my folks not to bring me an issue with another employee until they tell me they have already talked to that person and tried to work it out independently.” The Culture Gap by Paul Spiegelman
You must remember that your role is to resolve the conflict, not solve a problem. That is something the parties involved in the conflict must come to by way of discussion and agreement. They need to learn to communicate in such a way that they can understand each other’s points of views and come to a decision that is mutually acceptable. Your role is to facilitate that.
Lauren Mackler at Harvard Business School – Managing Conflict
Do Not Let Emotions Drive Decisions
The reason why conflicts arise is usually due to emotions. People feel strongly about their point of view. They have feelings towards and issue. If someone then disagrees with those emotions, it feels like a personal attack. As a result, people become defensive or either offensive, trying to maintain their personal position, rather than being more altruistic in their decision-making process.
“While having a conflict resolution structure is important, effective utilization of conflict resolution processes is ultimately dependent upon the ability of all parties to understand the benefits of conflict resolution, and perhaps more importantly, their desire to resolve the matter.” 5 Keys of Dealing with Workplace Conflict by Mike Myatt
Let Everybody Speak
As the mediator in a conflict situation, or even if you are involved in a conflict yourself, it is vital that everybody has a voice. If you silence someone, you are dismissing their opinion and creating greater conflict. Besides that, silencing someone means you are choosing sides.
“Merely silencing a co-worker or refusing to even consider the situation from his or her perspective rarely leads to a lasting resolution. So don’t turn a basic conflict into a one-sided monologue. Take the time to listen and try to learn something from the situation.” 10 Tips for Managing Conflict in the Workplace by Nathan Chandler
You must understand that different people have different ways of communicating. Not everybody is highly eloquent and some people struggle with face to face communication. Perhaps one of the parties even has a speech impediment. Hence, you have to ensure that all possible modes of communication are allowed as well, be that face to face or via email or other forms of non-verbal communication.
Understand The Bigger Picture
Last but not least, you must always understand the bigger picture. On the surface, it may seem that a conflict is just between two people, but the reality is that it affects far more people and situations than just the two that are at loggerheads. As the one who is resolving the conflict, you must be able to look deeper.
“Everyone in your office and every employee with whom the conflicting employees interact, is affected by the stress. People feel as if they are walking on egg shells in the presence of the antagonists. This contributes to the creation of a hostile work environment for other employees.” Workplace Conflict Resolution by Susan M. Heathfield About.com