Leadership advisor Mike Myatt writes in Forbes, “Developing effective conflict resolution skill sets are an essential component of building a sustainable business model… good conflict resolution ability equals good employee retention.”
Here are a few strategies that will help you to efficiently manage conflict in the workplace:
1. Determine its importance
Not all conflicts need to be addressed. “Pick your battles and avoid conflict for the sake of conflict,” suggests Mike Myatt. If you believe that the problem, issue or circumstance is important enough and it has the potential to affect your business, then it’s crucial that you resolve it. The key is open communication without any hierarchical gaps.
However, if the conflict is not that important, then “it might be worth just letting it be and seeing if it resolves itself. This can cause less conflict than if you get involved,” suggests Vanessa.
2. Know the facts
When there is conflict in the workplace, there is bound to different versions of what the truth is. And in most cases reaching a mutually agreeable resolve will not be possible. This is why it is important that you collect all necessary information and stick to the facts. Make sure you avoid all personal emotions, grudges and agendas when dealing with conflict.
Vanessa writes “You need to know everything about the situation at hand…Get yourself up to date and learn everything you can about the background of the situation – it will help provide valuable context and you will have a better chance of resolving the conflict.”
3. Listen to understand
When trying to resolve conflict, it is important to listen to the other person with the intention to understand, instead of with the intention to react. Understand what they are trying to say without interrupting them. Once they are done speaking, ask questions to make sure you understand them clearly.
“Simply nodding your head along won’t cut it. Listening actively and empathetically makes it easier to generate trust, appreciate each other’s positions and identify shared interests,” writes Kandarp Mehta, Senior Lecturer of Entrepreneurship and Negotiation Teaching Unit, IESE Business School.
In an article on Entrepreneur, serial entrepreneur Mike Kappel writes “It’s essential to give your complete attention to the person who is talking. Do not interrupt the other person.” Take steps to ensure to understand their message the way they intend to. Kappel adds “Rephrase and repeat back what you’ve heard to confirm understanding.”
4. Decide a course of action
Once you have gained some understanding about the conflict in the workplace, you need to identify the underlying need. According to a post by the University of California, Berkeley, “The goal of conflict resolution is not to decide which person is right or wrong; the goal is to reach a solution that everyone can live with. Looking first for needs, rather than solutions, is a powerful tool for generating win/win options.” Once you have identified their needs, you can focus on the solutions that can satisfy those needs. This where you need to determine which actions will be taken.
Vanessa Van Edwards writes “Consider everyone’s interests when you’re deciding the best course of action, and make sure you keep your own bias as far away from your decisions as possible. Instead, try to view the situation from various angles.”
5. Create a platform for open communication
Establish a line of communication that is open and understanding to address the conflict. Here every involved individual can have the opportunity to voice their concerns without the fear of being judged or criticized. When they can express what they feel about the situation without being interrupted, they will feel heard and the level of tension will decrease. This will help to calm all parties involved and enable the mediator to focus on the actual issue.
However, it is important that you decide on a neutral platform that is free from any bias. Vanessa Van Edwards writes “Often, it is best to avoid your own office for the purpose of conflict resolution – this will immediately put people on edge. Instead consider a neutral meeting room; somewhere with privacy, and enough time to discuss everything without feeling rushed.”