5 Steps To Solving Workplace Conflicts

Updated: May 21, 2020

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Conflict in the workplace is not uncommon, and in fact, in some instances, it is even worthwhile.  That's right.  It can be worthwhile particularly if you can shift the conflict to make it work to your advantage. Why does conflict occur?   Difference is at the heart of the conflict, so it’s important to explore areas where people often don’t align.  Typically, conflicts arise when expectations are not met in some form, when one party perceives a threat to themselves in some way, or through simple miscommunication. So, what can you do to manage conflict when it arises? Follow these simple steps.

1. Determine the cause.

You can't solve the problem until you are sure that everyone has a mutual definition of the problem and that everyone is talking about the same problem. Gather as much data as you can. Ask for information and be sure to involve the impacted individual(s) in discussions. Ask "what else" questions to raise all of the issues and show a willingness to listen.  Do not become defensive or personalize issues. Passing judgement before considering perspectives is dangerous. It’s easy to draw conclusions based on your initial impression of the situation. Problems arise, however, when your initial judgements get in the way of critical thinking once you’ve heard all sides of the conflict.

2. Collaborate on solutions.

Use a "yes... and" response to focus and build on potential solutions.   Avoid using a "yes... but" response, which tends to shift focus back onto the problem and away from solutions.   Whenever possible, always engage key stakeholders in developing solutions. This will help facilitate buy-in when final decisions are made. Allowing one team member to control the conversation is a root-cause of workplace conflict. Different personality types naturally clash. If one party is more outspoken and attempts to steer the meeting into a direction favourable to them, you should make an effort to get things back on track. Asking the quieter team member questions that help them communicate their side of the story is a great way to counter this.

3. Provide alternative options.

Whenever possible, provide choices. People tend to feel empowered when they are involved in the decision-making process.  This will also help you in soliciting ongoing support and champions once the final decisions are made.

4. Communicate key decisions.

Develop a communication plan that communicates the decision as many times and as many ways that you feel are appropriate.   This might include meeting one-on-one with those involved, announcement at a team meeting, and an email announcement or written memo to follow-up.   Be sure to involve your boss (and senior management or human resources when appropriate) to reinforce and support the final decision. When should HR step in?  We recommend that HR get involved in workplace conflicts when:

  1. Employees are threatening to quit over the problem. Recruiting and training are costly and it is often cheaper to work out a solution

  2. Disagreements are getting personal and respect between team members are being lost

  3. Conflicts are affecting morale and organizational success

5. Implement solutions.

Once a decision has been made, it is important that you be assertive in the implementation of that decision. When challenged (and do expect to be challenged) be calm, refocus on the process used to identify issues and develop solutions, and be confident in the knowledge that you have done the best you can to resolve the situation.   Don't get angry or over-apologize, as this will only serve to weaken your position. Handling workplace conflict is never easy but it is necessary if you want to be perceived as a strong leader capable of getting things done. Avoid conflict and you put yourself on a path of manipulation and distrust. Handle conflict straight on and you will earn the respect of your peers, your staff, and your boss.  Follow up with everyone involved in the conflict a few weeks after a resolution is met and ask them if they've changed their perspective on the issue at all.  By standardizing the way you resolve disputes and using them as learning opportunities, you can turn to workplace conflict resolution into a competitive advantage.  Remember: great things can come from conflict. When issues in the workplace arise, address them not as inconveniences, but opportunities for growth.  By addressing conflicts in your teams, you will feel more confident and capable, no matter what situation you find yourself in. Your whole team will also improve because of your thought process of helping them get past their conflicts.

Preventing future workplace conflict

Positive workplace culture is essential in mitigating disputes and can be achieved in a number of ways. Allowing your team to seek professional development opportunities is a great way to create a work environment of growth and continued learning. Become an expert on handling these hard-to-deal-with leadership tasks by leveraging our team development programme. Your personal development is just as important as that of your team members.

If you are looking for team development, leadership development, team building or character growth activities for your teams, connect with us today.

Find out more here: https://www.playbytu.sg/teamdevelopment