Conflict resolution strategies are important in the modern workplace. Not only can they ease friction between staff, but they can allow you to increase workplace productivity by mitigating issues when they first occur as well as allowing you to improve morale and teamwork.
But developing the skills and mastering the process of resolving conflicts takes time and practice if you don’t have help.
In this article, we will discuss why conflict resolution is so important in the workplace and the steps you can take as a small or medium sized business owner to quickly resolve conflicts when they arise.
What exactly is conflict resolution?
Conflict resolution is the process of resolving a dispute between two or more people. Conflict can occur between individual co-workers, between managers, between a manager and a member of their team or between a service provider and a customer or client. It can also occur between groups of people, such as between management and their workforce or between entire departments.
When a dispute arises, the best course of action is to use negotiation to resolve the problem. Through negotiation, you can resolve the problem quickly, identify a solution all parties agree to and improve the relationship between the groups in conflict.
Why is conflict resolution important?
Conflict resolution is essential for maintaining a productive workforce and high employee morale. Through conflict resolution, a business can:
- Understand more about the ideas, backgrounds and beliefs of another person and gain a new perspective that could change the workplace culture.
- Better ensure that relationships continue in a positive manner and grow in the future.
- Find peaceful solutions to everyday challenges and put valuable resources like time, energy, reputation, and motivation to better use in the workplace.
As a business owner, how can I resolve conflict in the workplace?
There are many ways to deal with conflict in the workplace. Here are some steps you can use to get started:
Try to understand the conflict
Before you begin communicating with the parties involved in the dispute you need to fully understand the issues involved as well as your position in the conflict. It’s important to clarify your own situation as well as those of the other people because even if you don’t feel intrinsically involved in the issues, you may be part of the problem without realizing it.
Think about what it is everyone really cares about in the conflict, what the concerns are and what everyone would like to see happen. As a business owner, think through what agreements you might be able to reach with those involved and balance the needs of the employees with those of the business.
Explore alternative solutions
In some cases, the parties may not be able to reach an agreeable solution in the conflict. You need to take this into consideration before you sit down with the parties involved to resolve the issue. Think about what you will do as a business owner if the parties can’t reach an agreement.
When you’re brainstorming possible resolutions to the conflict with the parties involved, compare each of those solutions to the best alternative you already have in mind and rapidly determine if the new solution is better.
Find a private, neutral place for meetings
It’s important to find a quiet and neutral location where all parties can discuss the conflict in private. The goal, ultimately, is to eliminate tension and a private location is essential to keep emotions calm.
A manager’s office or even in a conference room may work well if you can close the doors and speak without being interrupted.
Get both sides communicating
Once you have thought through your interests and those of the other parties in the dispute and have located a private, neutral place in which you can speak, it’s time to foster communication between those involved in the conflict. Here are some tips you can use to make the most of that time together:
- Be an active listener. Listen actively, rephrasing statements in your own words to ensure you fully understand what each party is saying. For example, you could start with, “So you’re saying that… Did I understand you correctly?”
- Let everyone participate. If there are multiple parties involved in the conversation, allow everyone who wants to contribute to the conversation to do so. People who participate will have a say in how the conflict is resolved and will be helpful in identifying a solution.
- Avoid forming assumptions. Keep an open mind, asking questions and gathering information so that you fully understand each person (or group of people’s) position.
- Remain calm even if others become emotional. You may even want to apologize if it’s warranted, as it can help diffuse the situation.
Be aware of body language
Be mindful of your body language, as you are conveying information to parties involved without having to speak. You want to project calmness and open-mindedness. Some ways to do this are to:
- Maintain eye contact
- Be conscious of your expression
- Relax your neck and shoulders
- Use a neutral tone with a moderate speed and volume
- Avoid the use of words that imply an absolute such as “always” or “never”
Identify a common goal
Once everyone has moved past the root cause of the problem, they often discover that they are working towards the same goal, they just have different opinions on how to reach that goal. Invite all parties to discuss what they want from the conflict resolution. Once you’ve identified the common goal, you can start working towards a resolution.
Use a third-party mediator
In some cases, it may be useful to use a neutral third party who everyone trusts to be fair. This can help ensure all parties understand one another fully and gives an outside perspective to proceedings. Some possible jobs for the mediator are:
- Listening to both sides and explaining their positions to each other
- Finding common interests
- Keeping both parties focused, respectful and reasonable
- Looking for solutions that would be considered a win-win for both parties
Agree on a plan of action
It’s important to identify different solutions that all parties can accept and see where there is common ground. Ideally, you would identify a solution that’s a win-win for everyone involved. However, if this isn’t possible, look for an idea that everyone can agree with and commit to.
Conflict resolution is important in workplaces. Without it businesses can become a hotbed of frustration and conflict.
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