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How to resolve conflict in the workplace effectively

Learn about some practical strategies you can use to handle conflict in the workplace.

1. Talk with the other person.

  • Ask the other person to name a time when it would be convenient to meet.
  • Arrange to meet in a place where you won’t be interrupted.

2. Focus on behavior and events, not on personalities.

  • Say “When this happens …” instead of “When you do …”
  • Describe a specific instance or event instead of generalizing.

3. Listen carefully.

  • Listen to what the other person is saying instead of getting ready to react.
  • Avoid interrupting the other person.
  • After the other person finishes speaking, rephrase what was said to make sure you understand it.
  • Ask questions to clarify your understanding.

4. Identify points of agreement and disagreement.

  • Summarize the areas of agreement and disagreement.
  • Ask the other person if he or she agrees with your assessment.
  • Modify your assessment until both of you agree on the areas of conflict.

5. Prioritize the areas of conflict.

  • Discuss which areas of conflict are most important to each of you to resolve.

6. Develop a plan to work on each conflict.

  • Start with the most important conflict.
  • Focus on the future.
  • Set up future meeting times to continue your discussions.

7. Follow through on your plan.

  • Stick with the discussions until you’ve worked through each area of conflict.
  • Maintain a collaborative, “let’s-work-out-a-solution” attitude.

8. Build on your success.

  • Look for opportunities to point out progress.
  • Compliment the other person’s insights and achievements.
  • Congratulate each other when you make progress, even if it’s just a small step. Your hard work will pay off when scheduled discussions eventually give way to ongoing, friendly communication.

Conflict Management

  • About
  • Handling Workplace Conflict
  • Interacting With Difficult People
  • Responding to Complaints or Grievances

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Nearly every area of life sometimes requires implementing effective conflict resolution strategies. Conflict is a struggle that can arise during an active disagreement of opinions or interests. In the workplace, there are many instances in which conflict can happen between coworkers, and when it does, it is important to resolve the situation before it escalates. In this article, we discuss five different types of conflict resolution and how to use conflict resolution in the workplace.

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict resolution is a way for opposing parties to find a peaceful solution to their disagreement that leaves all parties reasonably satisfied.

Conflict resolution can be done formally or informally in workplaces and is known to facilitate the following:

Build strong relationships

Effective conflict resolution skills can serve to reduce any discontent that could damage working relationships, facilitate better collaboration between coworkers and, as a result, construct strong working relationships between employees.

Maintain morale

Resolving conflicts effectively can prevent tension between disagreeing employees from spreading to other employees not involved in the original conflict. A quick, amicable resolution can help maintain peace and morale in the workplace and prevent disruptions in productivity.

What are the 5 conflict resolution strategies?

There are five common methods to resolve conflicts in the workplace:

  1. Accomodating
  2. Avoiding
  3. Compromising
  4. Collaborating

1. Accommodating

This method of conflict resolution, also known as smoothing, involves one party acquiescing, giving the opposing party exactly what it needs to resolve the problem.

In some cases, accommodating can be an appropriate resolution to conflict. For example, if your opinion on the matter is not very strong, it is often easier to comply. This method allows you the chance to resolve a problem in the short term while working toward a long-term solution.

2. Avoiding

This method involves simply ignoring the fact that there may be a conflict. People tend to avoid conflict when they do not wish to engage in it. Avoiding allows them to ignore that there is a problem.

There are situations in which avoiding conflict can be an appropriate response, such as when there is no clear solution or a frustrated party needs time to calm down before confrontation. However, avoidance can require more effort than merely facing the problem and can cause friction between the disagreeing parties.

3. Compromising

Also known as reconciling, compromising seeks a mutual agreement to settle a dispute. Both parties willingly forfeit some of their conditions in the interest of reaching an agreement. This can be a quick way to resolve a conflict without it becoming a bigger issue. Compromise can also be used as a temporary method to avoid conflict until the parties involved can implement a more permanent solution.

It is appropriate to compromise when it would not be possible to make both sides completely happy while still moving forward.

4. Collaborating

Like the compromising method, collaboration involves working with the other party to find a mutually agreeable solution to a problem. For example, a salesperson and client may work together to negotiate contract terms until both parties find it agreeable.

5. Competing

Competing is an uncooperative, overly assertive method used by people who insist on winning the dispute at all costs. This method is not often identified as bringing satisfactory resolutions, as it doesn’t allow for collaborative problem-solving.

How to use conflict resolution in the workplace

To avoid or resolve conflicts that have the potential to negatively influence the organization’s productivity, follow these steps to find the best solution possible:

1. Separate the person from the problem

Remain focused on the issue at hand, avoiding personal emotions during this discussion. Talk through the problem professionally without attaching a particular person or group to it.

2. Meet on neutral ground

Clarifying a problem or discussing a resolution should be carried out in a safe, neutral environment to facilitate a positive outcome. If possible, have an objective party act as a mediator to ensure a professional and respectful interaction and helping to separate facts from feelings in the discussion.

3. Brainstorm to create a list of possible solutions

Collectively explore all possible ideas for a mutually favorable outcome. All parties should be given ample opportunity to share their thoughts.

4. Agree on a solution

After visiting each possible option, determine which one will be the most favorable to everyone involved. Each party should provide an acknowledgment that the proposed solution is the best one possible.

Conflict resolution strategies allow you to increase workplace productivity by mitigating conflict when it first occurs. They also allow you to improve morale and teamwork within the workplace. Developing the skills and mastering the process of resolving conflicts takes time and practice. In this article, we discuss why conflict resolution is so important in the workplace and the steps you can take to quickly resolve conflicts when they arise.

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict resolution is the process of resolving a dispute between two or more people. Conflict can occur between individual coworkers, 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 to maintaining a productive workforce and high workplace morale. Through conflict resolution, you can:

Understand more about the ideas, backgrounds and beliefs of another person and gain a new perspective that may even change your own.

Better ensure that relationships continue 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.

How to resolve conflict in the workplace

Here are some steps you can use to resolve conflict in your own workplace:

1. Understand the conflict

Before you begin communicating with the other party, fully understand your position in the conflict and the position of the other party. It’s also important to clarify your own interests and those of the other person. Think about what it is that you really care about in the conflict, what your concerns are and what you would like to see happen. Go through the same exercise, thinking about the conflict from the other party’s perspective. Think through what agreements you might be able to reach.

2. Explore alternatives

In some cases, the parties are not able to reach an agreeable solution in a conflict. You need to take this into consideration before you sit down with the other party to resolve the issue. Think about at what point you will walk away from the conflict and what you will do if you can’t reach an agreement. Then when you’re brainstorming possible resolutions to the conflict, you can compare each of those solutions to the best alternative that you have already decided upon and rapidly determine if the new solution is better.

3. Find a private, neutral place

It’s important to find a quiet and neutral location where you can discuss the conflict in private. Because the goal, ultimately, is to eliminate tension, a private location is essential. A manager’s office or even in a conference room may work well if you can close the doors and speak privately without being interrupted.

4. Communicate both sides

Once you have thought through your interests and those of the other party and have located a private, neutral place in which you can speak, it’s time to communicate with one another directly. Here are some tips you can use to make the most of that time together:

  • Be an active listener. Listen actively, rephrasing the statement in your own words to ensure you fully understand what the other 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 position.

  • Remain calm. Remain calm, even if the other party becomes emotional. You may even want to apologize if it’s warranted, as it can help diffuse the situation.
  • 5. Be aware of body language

    Be mindful of your body language, as you are conveying information to the other party without even having to speak. You want to project calmness and open-mindedness. Some ways to do this are to:

    • Maintaining eye contact
    • Being conscious of your expression
    • Relaxing your neck and shoulders
    • Using a neutral tone with a moderate speed and volume
    • Avoiding the use of words that imply an absolute such as “always” or “never”

    6. Identify a common goal

    In this step, both parties agree on the desired outcome for the conflict. 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. Discuss what you would like to see happen and what your interests are. Invite the other party to do the same. Once you’ve identified the common goal, you can start working towards a resolution.

    7. Use a third-party mediator

    In some cases, it may be useful to use a neutral third party whom everyone trusts to be fair. This can help ensure both parties understand one another fully and, if necessary, continually remind everyone of the ultimate goal so that the conversation and brainstorming session remains productive. 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

    8. Brainstorm solutions

    Now that you fully understand the conflict, the interests of each party and the common goal for all parties, you can start thinking about possible solutions. Try to come up with as many ideas as possible. Look for win-win solutions or compromises that all parties can agree upon.

    Discuss each idea. Consider what’s involved and whether the idea involves other people who should be consulted. If an idea cannot be used, discuss why it won’t work. If the conflict is between you and someone who works under you, use their ideas first to increase the personal commitment on their part and make them feel heard.

    9. Agree on a plan of action

    Identify different solutions that both you and the other party 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 in the workplace is an inevitable reality. This is why it is so important to understand what causes conflict in business and to have a conflict resolution plan in place to address it when it happens.

    Conflict is defined as:

    “To come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at
    variance or in opposition; clash to fight or contend; do battle.”

    Conflict can be the result of competition in the workplace.

    Sources Of Conflict At Work

    And, competition can come in a couple of ways.

    Competition for resources – Battles often ensue over limited resources. These resources can be in the form of budget dollars, prime workspace or available labor/employees.

    Position – Competition can arise from an employee’s position which may be their demonstration of ability, work skills, or influence in the work environment.

    Relationships – Often there is social competition. Employees try to demonstrate their relationships (popularity) with the boss, coworkers, vendors, and sometimes customers.

    Personality – Let’s be real. We all have different social styles and sometimes the way we interact and communicate can be source of conflict. Invest in social style training to help increase employee awareness of the different ways we all communicate.

    If managed properly, conflict can add value to an organization.

    For example, if employees hold back ideas and suggestions because they fear a negative response from others, it could hinder an organization’s creative process.

    But if the culture embraces diverse thinking, it can generate innovative ideas.

    Conflict can occur between co-workers, employees and managers, individual work groups and departments or between an organization and a vendor.

    Conflict is often the result of a disagreement over resources or how goals are accomplished.

    But what drives the emotional response to conflict is often a difference in priorities, values, position, and personal style.

    Underlying Organizational Issues

    Conflict can be a manifestation of underlying organizational issues.

    For example, unclear boundaries, or inconsistent enforcement of policies, can mean that employees are treated differently.

    This results in resentment for different standards of behavior.

    Conflict among co-workers creates distractions that can hinder an organization’s ability to meet corporate objectives.

    And, when conflict in the workplace is not managed, it can create stress, affect job performance, and be an underlying cause of a hostile workplace.

    The goal of a workplace conflict resolution strategy is to find a win-win, or a compromise, so each party’s interests are met at some level.

    5 Steps to Workplace Conflict Resolution

    1. Separate The People From The Problem

    It is important to separate the person from the conflict and remember that – it is about the process, not the person.

    Focus on the issue and avoid tying the issue to a particular person or person(s).

    For example, if there is conflict over limited resources, look at the process for how those resources are allocated and not the person vying for those resources.

    If you can determine how and why (process) you will be able to communicate a fair distribution.

    If the process is deemed unfair, relook at the process and strive to remove natural biases.

    2. Identify A Mediator

    Sometimes conflict is at such a level that it warrants a neutral party to help mediate.

    Ideally try to identify someone who is trained in mediation of people, or groups of people. Use this expert to begin a conversation and work toward a resolution.

    This might include establishing specific guidelines for personal interaction behaviors, as well as identifying any underlying issues that contribute to the conflict.

    For example, I had an employee who was promoted to a supervisor and was having a difficult time managing someone who was once a co-worker.

    The underlying issues dealt with the employee who felt like she had missed out on the promotion. Difficult to diagnose without intervention. But an issue that can be toxic to the work environment.

    3. Clarify The Problem

    It is important to take the time to hear all of the concerns and to get a good understanding of what the problem is.

    Try to work toward identifying each parties interests and not their position as it relates to the conflict.

    Understanding another person’s interests (why it’s important to them) can help separate the person from the problem.

    For example, if there are limited resources to support a team project, try to listen to concerns from each party about the potential impact those resources have and how it might affect their ability to achieve employee goals.

    4. Explore All Options

    Brainstorm ideas for ways of resolving the issue that would result in a win-win for all parties.

    The goal is to make it a positive result for everyone involved.

    This might include establishing criteria for determining fairness for the outcome.

    For instance, initiate a conversation with both parties and simply ask the question:

    • What does fairness look like to you?
    • If you were me, how would you fairly distribute these limited resources?

    The simple act of engaging in conversation that encourages employees to see things from a different perspective can often lead to resolution.

    5. Agree On A Resolution

    All involved parties should be part of the process to find and agree to a resolution.

    This could be a verbal acknowledgment, and agreement, that the proposed resolution is the best solution to the problem.

    A more formal process might be to have all parties sign-off on the agreement in a written document.

    Final thoughts.

    • If it is an emotionally charged conflict, establish a cooling off period for all involved parties before trying to resolve the issue.
    • Discuss issues in a safe and neutral environment.
    • Make sure all parties have the opportunity to share their concerns.
    • Nip conflict in the bud because unresolved conflict can fester and reach a point of no return. Meaning that unresolved conflict can result in the necessity of removing a team member.

    Organizations that have mastered the art of conflict resolution have a business advantage because positive conflict outcomes remove performance barriers and allows organizations to more quickly meet corporate objectives.

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    How to resolve conflict in the workplace effectively

    • Acknowledge and Clarify the Problem
    • Focus on Events and Behavior
    • Maintain Personal Safety
    • Work Together to Identify Needs and Practical Solutions
    • Monitor for Improvements
    • Conflict Resolution Is Within Reach

    Workplace conflict is a common problem that can quickly become a major issue if left unaddressed, causing productivity and team morale to plummet. Here are some straightforward strategies to use when handling conflict

    Acknowledge and Clarify the Problem

    Some human resources (HR) professionals may think the best thing to do is initially ignore the problem to see if it gets better without intervention. However, that could lead to severe consequences.

    A 2019 survey of 30,000 employees found that nearly one in three had left jobs due to associated conflicts. The best starting point is to accept that the problem exists. Face it head-on and commit to finding solutions.

    Next, people should clarify the nature of the issue with the parties involved. Doing that prevents any wrong assumptions about what’s happening.

    For example, an HR professional may believe someone has a bad attitude about a project because it comes with a heavier-than-usual workload. However, approaching the person to learn more might reveal frustration with a colleague in another time zone. More specifically, maybe the problem centers around “urgent” requests the disgruntled individual consistently receives 15 minutes before the end of their workday.

    Focus on Events and Behavior

    Another best practice for conflict resolution is to emphasize the associated events and behavior rather than the person. That way, it’s easier to ensure the offending parties don’t feel personally attacked during related conversations.

    For example, maybe several office workers became frustrated about an individual who repeatedly cooks things that splash all over the break room microwave’s interior. That person doesn’t clean the appliance after use, so their colleagues arrive to find a mess.

    In that example, the best approach is to say something such as, “Riley, several colleagues have mentioned that they repeatedly find the microwave unclean after you use it.” That statement leads with how someone acted instead of the person responsible.

    Employee-Centric Engagement, Internal
    Communications, and Recognition

    How to resolve conflict in the workplace effectively

    Maintain Personal Safety

    Conflict resolution may require engaging with mentally unstable people or those with a history of acting dangerously. The reality is that circumstances can change quickly. That’s true even for professionals who are well-accustomed to interacting with people in distress.

    As a case in point, one study found that 21% of registered and student nurses polled reported being physically assaulted in one year. Using a lone worker safety solution is an effective way to keep workers safe if conflicts escalate when they are alone with a volatile person.

    It’s understandable that an HR manager would want to resolve conflicts as promptly as possible. However, they should never attempt to proceed without prioritizing their safety first. Otherwise, a formerly manageable situation could turn tragic.

    Work Together to Identify Needs and Practical Solutions

    Solving workplace conflict requires clarifying needs and ways to fix the identified issue. However, HR professionals should let the people involved express their feelings before trying to tackle things. Creating time for people to publicly acknowledge hurt or anger can put everyone in the right frame of mind.

    Maybe someone sensitive to noise says they need a quieter office mate. Start by figuring out which factors generate the biggest issues. Perhaps the person causing the bother simply has a voice that carries easily. Alternatively, maybe certain activities are more distracting. If the upsetting sound level stems from a trait someone can’t help, the best option is probably to relocate them elsewhere.

    However, if it’s behavior-based, maybe the person concerned could adjust their actions a bit. For example, the problem may be that a worker plays music through headphones, and the noise-sensitive person can still hear it. Asking the listener to turn down the volume, only listen to music for a half-day, or use an alternating quiet hour system could offer possible compromises.

    Monitor for Improvements

    After initially strategizing how to address a conflict, HR professionals should schedule follow-up meetings to check progress. Those gatherings should involve both parties and give them ample time to discuss the actions they’ve taken to end or ease the tension.

    Planning to meet about two weeks after finalizing an action plan gives everyone a chance to try out the solution and assess how it works. Conflicts don’t always resolve after the first attempt.

    However, urging people to stay open and honest about what could lead to progress can keep them on track. Notes about what’s working well make it easier to motivate people to continue pursuing positive change, too.

    Conflict Resolution Is Within Reach

    About Author: This article is written by a marketing team member at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of proven HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee communications & engagement, and rewards & recognition. Our user-friendly software increases employee productivity, delivers time and cost savings, and minimizes compliance risk.

    Discover which attitude will help you to manage conflict the most at work.

    The cost of conflict in the workplace can be very high. While conflict cannot be avoided, the approach to its solution makes all the difference. In this post, you learn to recognize which attitude and skills help to handle in a constructive way conflict in the workplace.

    According to the report “Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive,” the following statistics demonstrate how pervasive conflict is in the workplace:

    • 85 percent of employees deal with conflict on some level
    • 29 percent of employees deal with it almost constantly
    • 34 percent of conflict occurs among front-line employees
    • 12 percent of employees say they frequently witness conflict among the senior team
    • 49 percent of conflict is a result of personality clashes and “warring egos”
    • 34 percent of conflict is caused by stress in the workplace
    • 33 percent of conflict is caused by heavy workloads
    • 27 percent of employees have witnessed conflicts lead to personal attacks
    • 25 percent of employees have seen conflict result in sickness or absence
    • 9 percent have seen workplace conflict cause a project to fail

    Why is there conflict in the workplace?

    Conflict in the workplace is a shared experience.

    Discriminatory practices, lousy performance reviews, customs dissatisfaction, personality clashes, all contribute to a challenging working environment.

    It is not uncommon to hear employees complaining about the management style of their boss. Or to learn about rivalries among peers.

    In short, the interdependent nature of teams and organizations, the competitive if not incompatible goals and interests, and a perceived scarcity of resources can be at the root of a conflict in the workplace.

    And yet, the presence of conflict is not in itself a problem.

    The two attitudes towards conflict

    What marks the outcome of a conflict in the workplace is the attitude.

    A pioneer in conflict resolution, the late social psychologist Morton Deutsch has identified two central attitudes that we develop when confronted with a conflict.

    I remember the master class, which professor Deutsch gave at Columbia University in the fall of 2000. Engaging with graduate students for two hours, he summarized a lifelong commitment to peace and conflict resolution.

    He said that if we were to understand the two attitudes to conflict and the impact they can make on the life of an organization, we had in our hands the key to making a meaningful impact.

    When conflict is all about winning or losing

    Morton Deutch explained that one approach to conflict is competition. Parties in a conflict perceive conflict as a zero-sum game. There has to be a loser to be a winner. For me to continue swimming, the other needs to sink.

    Some of the traits of a competitive approach to a conflict are the following:

    • Impaired communication
    • Obstructiveness
    • Lack of help
    • Constant disagreements
    • One’s power is enhanced when the power of the other is reduced

    This attitude encourages a destructive pattern of the conflict. It can lead to a downward spiral of performance and results.

    A better way to handle conflict in the workplace

    The opposite attitude to conflict is cooperation.

    It is an approach that recognizes the interdependence of the relations, and it frames conflict as an opportunity to improve performance, communication, and relationships.

    Rather than a zero-sum game, conflict becomes a win-win opportunity. There is a shared belief that everyone is better off if no one sinks, but all instead are allowed to swim.

    When cooperation marks the approach to conflict, then the following behavioral patterns are observed:

    • Effective communication
    • Helpfulness
    • Trust
    • Coordination of efforts
    • Reciprocal respect
    • Conflicting interests are defined as a mutual problem to be solved

    To maintain a cooperative approach is not easy when confronted with conflict. It is easy to be defensive and fearful, or aggressive and even angry when we perceive that our interests, our role, or even our reputation is at stake.

    This is why organizations are investing more and more in sound conflict management and conflict coaching training.

    To be able to maintain a high-performance under stressful circumstances cannot be left to improvisation and to chance. Top performers always train their mental grit for the most challenging moments.

    The difference that makes the difference

    When I work with clients or when I facilitate a leadership training, I always put forward an invitation: What if we look at conflict not as a problem to be solved, but as an invitation for personal and organizational growth?

    As long as we see conflict as a problem to be fixed, we operate from the same level at which the conflict was created.

    Instead, when we see conflict as an opportunity to be bigger and better, we are challenged to rise to a new quality of thoughts, emotions, behaviors; we are invited to develop further references and to update our values and our beliefs. Ultimately, we are encouraged to upgrade our self-image.

    When we recognize in conflict the opportunity for change and transformation, eventually we elevate and expand our identity.

    This way, we recognize that underneath the conflict that is a future that wants to emerge. That is, there is a potential that wants to be expressed, a reality that wants to be generated.

    In other words, a conflict can be the most precious gift that happens to our personal lives and the life of our organizations.

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    Disagreements are a natural part of working. When handled properly, however, they can lead to new, innovative solutions and more cohesive relationships. Learning how to manage and take advantage of conflicts can help business owners build better teams and a healthier workplace culture. Learn about conflict management and get tips for handling conflict effectively.

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    What is conflict management?

    Conflict management refers to the practice of resolving conflict fairly and effectively. When employers manage conflicts properly, parties avoid escalating disagreements and feel heard and understood. Differing sides agree to collaborate and overcome the challenge. Some resolutions even offer innovative solutions. Savvy managers can learn to perfect resolution skills and strategies to get the most value out of conflict.

    How to manage conflicts

    Here are some tips to help you manage conflict:

    • Take immediate action. One of the most important strategies is to resolve conflicts as soon as possible. Early response will minimize tension and keep other employees out of the disagreement. Many miscommunications are resolved with simple, transparent discussion.
    • Frame the discussion positively. Do not refer to meetings as “conflict resolution.” Instead, if you’re meeting with employees, call the discussion “brainstorming,” a “chat session,” or simply say you’d like to get opinions on the matter.
    • Focus on the issue, not the person. Encourage parties to avoid personal attacks and focus on problem-solving.
    • Practice active listening. Let each party speak without interruption. If the discussion becomes heated, ask parties to clarify how work processes were impacted or what they need to do their jobs. Restate what you heard in your own words. Ask open-ended questions that encourage parties to speak. Do not ask questions likely to yield “yes,” or “no” answers.
    • Ask for proposed solutions. Ask for opinions and encourage consensus on a solution.

    Three examples of effective conflict management

    The following are some examples of workplace conflicts and steps a manager might take to resolve them:

    Managers and employees

    Sometimes, despite the best of intentions, managers and their employees can clash. For example, a manager with a type-A personality sets ambitious goals for an employee, inadvertently overwhelming them. Or, a manager has a hands-off management style, and an employee wants more guidance.

    Establish guidelines clearly and ensure parties understand that the purpose of the discussion is to work together toward concrete solutions.

    For example, if an employee is overwhelmed by their duties, ask them to prepare a spreadsheet of tasks with estimated times for each. Ask the manager to meet with the employee on a weekly basis to review the workload together. The employee can teach the manager more about the employee’s job and work on solutions for streamlining specific duties or distributing to other teammates. The important thing is to keep discussions ongoing and open, so employees and managers learn better skills for working together.

    Conflicts with customers

    Resolve disputes with customers by involving managers who can offer refunds, discounts or other gestures that can help mitigate frustrations. Allow the customer to talk and express how they feel and use empathetic statements to show you care.

    Always take responsibility for any mistakes that the company has made and ask the customer how you can resolve the issue for them. It’s best to know, before asking, how much you’re willing to pay to keep the customer happy.

    Performance review conflicts

    Work one-on-one with the employee to create a plan with specific action steps and deadlines to improve their performance. Encourage employees to voice their opinions when setting goals to increase their commitment.

    Frequently asked questions about conflict management

    Here are a few frequently asked questions about conflict management:

    What are conflict resolution skills?

    Some of essential conflict resolution skills include:

    • Communication: Clear and accurate communication is essential to making parties feel heard. It also helps to ensure all parties know exactly what is expected going forward.
    • Emotional intelligence: Understanding one’s feelings and the feelings of others is highly important to averting, minimizing and resolving conflicts.
    • Empathy: Seeing another person’s point of view can reduce resentments and stubbornness, as well as increase innovation and learning.
    • Problem-solving: Good problem-solvers listen and find solutions that help differing parties agree and cooperate.

    How do you improve conflict management skills?

    Here are some tips to improve your conflict management skills:

    • Practice active listening. Listen without interrupting and ask thoughtful, open-ended questions to better understand the other person’s point of view. Make eye contact when you’re speaking. Be clear and concise when writing or speaking. Be aware of your body language and pay attention to the body language of others. You may even want to consider asking a trusted colleague for honest feedback to find out if there are any areas you could improve your communication habits.
    • Maintain a positive attitude. Controlling your emotional response and maintaining a positive attitude can help you keep discussions calm and productive.
    • Work toward the outcome. Conflict is only resolved when parties emerge with an agreed-upon plan and set of actions. Keep discussions leaning toward achieving this goal and write action steps. Ensure all parties agree and understand how to move forward.

    How to resolve conflict in the workplace effectively

    Westend61 / Getty Images

    Many people head in the opposite direction when they spot conflict in the workplace. But if you’re a manager that’s a mistake. Conflict can be healthy or unhealthy, but either way, it merits your attention.

    The healthy conflict focuses on differences of opinion regarding tasks or work-related activities. It can be leveraged and facilitated for gain.

    Unhealthy conflict is a kind that gets personal. It must be extinguished immediately or it jeopardizes the work environment.

    5 Styles of Conflict Management:

    The research work of Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann in the 1970s led to the identification of five styles of conflict and the development of a widely used self-assessment called the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, or TKI.

    Their work suggested that we all have a preferred way to deal with conflict which serves us well in some situations, but not all. The key to success is to develop a flexible toolkit of conflict management approaches and use the one that best fits the situation.

    The more you can get comfortable with each way of dealing with conflict, the more effective you will be.

    Collaborating

    In the collaborative approach, the manager works with the people involved to develop a win-win solution. The focus on finding a solution that meets everyone’s needs.

    This style is appropriate when:

    • The situation is not urgent
    • An important decision needs to be made
    • The conflict involves many people or a number of people across teams
    • Previous conflict resolution attempts have failed

    This style is not appropriate when:

    • A decision needs to be made urgently
    • The matter is trivial to all involved

    Competing

    With a competitive approach, the person who takes the firmest stand wins. This style is often seen as aggressive and can be the cause of others in the conflict feeling taken advantage of.

    Nevertheless, this style is appropriate when:

    • A decision needs to be made quickly
    • An unpopular decision needs to be made
    • Someone is trying to take advantage of a situation

    This style is not appropriate when:

    • People are feeling sensitive about the issue
    • The situation is not urgent
    • Buy-in is important

    Compromising

    With the compromising approach, each person gives up something that contributes towards conflict resolution.

    This style is appropriate when:

    • A decision needs to be made sooner rather than later
    • Resolving the conflict is more important than having each individual win
    • Power among the people in the conflict is equal

    This style is not appropriate when:

    • A variety of important needs must be met
    • The situation is extremely urgent
    • One person holds more power than another

    Accommodating

    The accommodating style is one of the most passive conflict resolution methods. One of the individuals gives in so that the other person can get what they want. As a rule, this style is not very effective, but it is appropriate in certain scenarios:

    • Maintaining the relationship is more important than winning
    • The issue at hand is very important to only one person

    This style is not appropriate when:

    • It will not permanently solve the problem

    Avoiding

    The last approach is to avoid the conflict entirely. People who use this style tend to accept decisions without question, avoid confrontation, and delegate difficult decisions and tasks. Avoiding is another passive approach that is typically not effective, but it has its uses.

    This style is appropriate when:

    • The issue is trivial
    • The conflict will resolve itself on its own soon

    This style is not appropriate when:

    • The issue is important to you or your team
    • The conflict will grow worse without attention

    The Bottom Line

    There is no right or wrong style of conflict resolution. Each has its time and place. Learn how to use all five and you’ll be much more effective. As a manager, learn to suggest different approaches based on these five styles when striving to defuse conflict.

    How to resolve conflict in the workplace effectively

    • Acknowledge and Clarify the Problem
    • Focus on Events and Behavior
    • Maintain Personal Safety
    • Work Together to Identify Needs and Practical Solutions
    • Monitor for Improvements
    • Conflict Resolution Is Within Reach

    Workplace conflict is a common problem that can quickly become a major issue if left unaddressed, causing productivity and team morale to plummet. Here are some straightforward strategies to use when handling conflict

    Acknowledge and Clarify the Problem

    Some human resources (HR) professionals may think the best thing to do is initially ignore the problem to see if it gets better without intervention. However, that could lead to severe consequences.

    A 2019 survey of 30,000 employees found that nearly one in three had left jobs due to associated conflicts. The best starting point is to accept that the problem exists. Face it head-on and commit to finding solutions.

    Next, people should clarify the nature of the issue with the parties involved. Doing that prevents any wrong assumptions about what’s happening.

    For example, an HR professional may believe someone has a bad attitude about a project because it comes with a heavier-than-usual workload. However, approaching the person to learn more might reveal frustration with a colleague in another time zone. More specifically, maybe the problem centers around “urgent” requests the disgruntled individual consistently receives 15 minutes before the end of their workday.

    Focus on Events and Behavior

    Another best practice for conflict resolution is to emphasize the associated events and behavior rather than the person. That way, it’s easier to ensure the offending parties don’t feel personally attacked during related conversations.

    For example, maybe several office workers became frustrated about an individual who repeatedly cooks things that splash all over the break room microwave’s interior. That person doesn’t clean the appliance after use, so their colleagues arrive to find a mess.

    In that example, the best approach is to say something such as, “Riley, several colleagues have mentioned that they repeatedly find the microwave unclean after you use it.” That statement leads with how someone acted instead of the person responsible.

    Employee-Centric Engagement, Internal
    Communications, and Recognition

    How to resolve conflict in the workplace effectively

    Maintain Personal Safety

    Conflict resolution may require engaging with mentally unstable people or those with a history of acting dangerously. The reality is that circumstances can change quickly. That’s true even for professionals who are well-accustomed to interacting with people in distress.

    As a case in point, one study found that 21% of registered and student nurses polled reported being physically assaulted in one year. Using a lone worker safety solution is an effective way to keep workers safe if conflicts escalate when they are alone with a volatile person.

    It’s understandable that an HR manager would want to resolve conflicts as promptly as possible. However, they should never attempt to proceed without prioritizing their safety first. Otherwise, a formerly manageable situation could turn tragic.

    Work Together to Identify Needs and Practical Solutions

    Solving workplace conflict requires clarifying needs and ways to fix the identified issue. However, HR professionals should let the people involved express their feelings before trying to tackle things. Creating time for people to publicly acknowledge hurt or anger can put everyone in the right frame of mind.

    Maybe someone sensitive to noise says they need a quieter office mate. Start by figuring out which factors generate the biggest issues. Perhaps the person causing the bother simply has a voice that carries easily. Alternatively, maybe certain activities are more distracting. If the upsetting sound level stems from a trait someone can’t help, the best option is probably to relocate them elsewhere.

    However, if it’s behavior-based, maybe the person concerned could adjust their actions a bit. For example, the problem may be that a worker plays music through headphones, and the noise-sensitive person can still hear it. Asking the listener to turn down the volume, only listen to music for a half-day, or use an alternating quiet hour system could offer possible compromises.

    Monitor for Improvements

    After initially strategizing how to address a conflict, HR professionals should schedule follow-up meetings to check progress. Those gatherings should involve both parties and give them ample time to discuss the actions they’ve taken to end or ease the tension.

    Planning to meet about two weeks after finalizing an action plan gives everyone a chance to try out the solution and assess how it works. Conflicts don’t always resolve after the first attempt.

    However, urging people to stay open and honest about what could lead to progress can keep them on track. Notes about what’s working well make it easier to motivate people to continue pursuing positive change, too.

    Conflict Resolution Is Within Reach

    About Author: This article is written by a marketing team member at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of proven HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee communications & engagement, and rewards & recognition. Our user-friendly software increases employee productivity, delivers time and cost savings, and minimizes compliance risk.