Coming into conflict or disagreement with people in your life is pretty much inevitable, including your workplace. Unless you want to be a human doormat, and always agree with everyone around you, you are going to eventually find yourself in a situation where there is a potential for conflict. Because of this, we are not going to look at preventing conflict in the workplace solely but look at conflict resolution instead. So, here is a short and sweet 9 step guide to conflict resolution in the workplace.
1. Identifying the Conflict Source
The first step in conflict resolution is to identify exactly what caused the conflict. As Jesse Williams, a human resources manager at Write my X and 1 Day 2 write, noted, “Sometimes it may be a person, but more often than not it is actually an activity, a topic of conversation, or a combination of people in a certain environment. It is unlikely to boil down to just one person.” After this is understood, the next step is to obtain consensus from all parties on what exactly the conflict was. It is important to then gather as many sources as possible, witnesses, and overall information in order to begin conflict resolution in the most effective manner. After you are sure you have conducted effective initial research, we come to step two.
2. Find a Private Place to Discuss
The next step is to find the best environment to talk about the conflict. The place that you gather both parties needs to be safe, protected, and most of all private. No conflict as ever been resolved well or effectively (and certainly not long term) if it was discussed and ‘resolved’ in the public eye. No one wants onlookers an guest commentators when airing their issues and grievances, or discussing a conflict.
3. Be Active and Assertive
Although people need to express themselves in conflict resolution, they will not be able to do this without an assertive mediator. By being an active listener, you will allow both parties to feel heard by you and each other, and be involved in the conversation. This approach will allow both parties to feel as though something is being accomplished and promote honesty in the resolution.
4. Let Both Parties Express Their Feelings
Conflict resolution will not be fully effective if both parties are not allowed to full vent and express their feelings and opinions on the subject of conflict. Allow all people who are involved in the conflict to fully express their point of view with zero favoritism or sway towards one or the other.
5. Do Your Own Investigation
After you have gathered preliminary information and listened to both parties involved in the conflict, you may need to investigate the issue further. After you have let both parties express themselves have individual conversations, speak to witnesses, and gather your own information before coming to a final verdict or decision on the conflict.
6. Remember the Common Goal
The common goal of conflict resolution is to understand the issue and find ways to prevent it or put measures in place to mediate the disagreement. Hannah Richardson, a conflict resolution writer at Origin Writings and Brit Student, commented that, “If you find that there is a person involved who just wants to cause problems, this person is your issue and must be dealt with. However in most cases, it is just a case of figuring out the best way to prevent the conflict from happening again.” After you have determined the original cause of and reason for the conflict, gather both involved parties together.
7. Agree on a Solution
After this intensive process, both parties should be brought together to agree on the best solution to avoid this conflict or a similar one in the future. This solution must be something that both parties consent to and agree on, and something that will be an effective and long-term solution. Allow those involved to discover common ground and let them be as involved in the resolution decision as possible.
Do not mistake resolution for your job being done! It is important to constantly be aware of the situation and check in on how well your resolution is working in day-to-day life for all parties involved.
9. Preventative Strategies
It is crucial to have strategies in your back pocket as a conflict resolution manager just in case your original resolution is not fully effective. I would suggest having at least 2 back-up solutions and preventative actions ready to go.
Hopefully, this article has provided you with the right tools to deal with conflict in the workplace, rather than just looking at how to prevent it. The way a business resolves conflict will have an impact on their retention, company culture, and generally just how happy people are to work there (which will in turn impact productivity). Happy managing!