5 Conflict Resolution Techniques for a Positive Environment
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[fa icon="calendar"] Aug 20, 2020 8:00:00 AM / by Michelle Nystrom

Michelle Nystrom

5 Conflict Resolution Techniques in the Workplace


team of successful business people having a meeting in executive sunlit officeConflicts are not uncommon within the workplace. Disputes between employees can arise due to a variety of reasons, including stress, mistakes, disagreements, and miscommunication. While creating a positive work environment can help minimize such conflicts, you’ll never be able to eliminate them. Since conflict is inevitable, your managers will need to know how to deal with it. They should consider conflict resolution as a key component of their job.

The inability to resolve a conflict can cause a lot of problems in the workplace. It can create tension between team members, which can impede their ability to collaborate and work together over the long term. Conflict can also impair productivity, making it more difficult to meet essential deadlines. Finally, employees will notice if there’s no attempt at conflict resolution from their leadership, which will hurt the trust that they have in their managers. On the other hand, successful conflict resolution can build trust between employees and their managers.

Considering how vital conflict resolution is in helping to maintain productivity, collaboration, and a positive work environment, it shouldn’t be difficult to see why conflict resolution is critical to your business. Be sure that your managers have the know-how to address and solve any disputes that might exist or arise within their teams. These are five of the most effective techniques that leaders in any organization can rely on for conflict resolution: 

1. Withdrawing

Withdrawing might not seem like much of a strategy. After all, the act of withdrawing is essentially the same as avoiding the conflict altogether. Yet, in certain situations, withdrawing might be the most appropriate conflict resolution strategy. Some disputes will be relatively minor, to the point where the people involved should be able to come to a solution on their own.

If a manager were to butt in every time they perceived a minor conflict within their team, it could be seen as disruptive. Employees might think that the manager is making something out of nothing. Some employees may even begin to feel that their manager is always on their case any time they have a minor disagreement with a coworker. Such constant involvement on behalf of the manager can make an employee feel like they are being unfairly targeted and can breed resentment.

Situations

Knowing when it is appropriate to withdraw based on the situation is essential. If you withdraw from a conflict that called for direct action, employees may view your behavior as a sign that you don’t want to get involved. Even worse, they may assume that you don’t know how to resolve the conflict. In either case, it can damage the perception of your leadership abilities. However, there are several types of situations in which withdrawing might be a good option.

If a heated argument has already taken place and has ended, then trying to insert yourself into the situation right away might be a bad idea. It may be best if you let the employees who were in the argument have some time to cool off. If the conflict is over a petty issue (for example, one employee borrowed another employee’s stapler without asking), then it might not be worth interfering over. Employees should be mature enough to resolve petty conflicts on their own. It’s only if the same employees continue to have petty conflicts with their coworkers that you may need to step in.

2. Collaborating

Collaboration requires that you speak to everyone involved in the conflict to confront the problem directly and to try and solve it together. For collaboration to work, both sides must be willing to address the issue at hand in a mature way so that you can understand each side of the conflict. They must also be willing to share responsibility and work together to come to a solution.

If it’s appropriate to the situation, collaboration can be one of the most effective conflict resolution techniques since it can allow you to find a solution that both parties agree to and find satisfactory. Then you won’t have to choose one side over the other. It can also strengthen the relationship between the two parties and improve their ability to work together in the future.

Situations

There are many situations in which collaboration is a suitable way to resolve the conflict. If one employee is introverted and non-confrontational and they have an issue with one of their coworkers, getting them to discuss the issue together might be all that’s needed to solve it. The solution may simply be a matter of communicating the problem.

For example, introverted employees may be having a tough time completing their tasks because a coworker is unknowingly making their job harder. Unfortunately, the introverted employee doesn’t want to say anything because they don’t like conflict. If your manager acts as a mediator and confronts the situation head-on, the introverted employee may have more success explaining the issue to their coworker. The coworker may even agree to change the way they complete their tasks to help the introverted employee.

Collaboration is a good option when it comes to addressing issues surrounding miscommunication. You should leverage collaboration to solve disagreements about work processes or ideas as well as long as the dispute isn’t overly personal. The ability to successfully resolve conflicts using collaboration can help to maintain and strengthen long-term relationships.

3. Forcing

Forcing a solution might not seem like the best tactic. Ideally, you would prefer your employees to collaborate instead of competing over who is right. However, there are situations in which forcing conflict resolution is the best course of action. Of course, being able to determine when forcing a resolution is the best option is crucial since it can have a negative impact on employees if it’s not appropriate to the situation. For example, it can breed bullying within the team and can also lead to resentment if an employee is continually finding themselves on the losing end of the conflict. 

Situation

There are two types of situations in which you might want to consider forcing a resolution. The first is if you know one party is right and the other is wrong. For example, there’s an argument between employees because a coworker keeps eating other people’s snacks. There’s no room for collaboration here -- one person is obviously in the wrong, which means you have to force them to stop doing what they’re doing.

Secondly, if a quick solution is required, then there may not be time for discussion. Maybe your team is disagreeing on what kind of process to implement to complete a project on time. In such a case, there may not be room for collaboration. You will have to listen to each side make their case, and then choose a solution based on the information you have.

4. Compromising

Compromising is similar to collaboration. The main difference is that through collaboration, your employees can work together to find the perfect solution. Compromising may be required if employees have two different solutions in mind and will need to figure out a way to meet in the middle. It requires everybody to work together to find a solution, but nobody gets their way. It means that each side will have to make a sacrifice to find a solution. Compromise can be an effective way to resolve the conflict since there is no clearly defined winner or loser.

Situation

Collaboration should always be preferred over compromising. However, collaboration may not always be an option. If you can’t force a decision because you have an equal relationship with both parties and you don’t want to cause a disruption, then a compromise might be required. Generally speaking, compromises work best as temporary solutions to more complex issues. You may need to monitor and address these issues again in the future since compromises are rarely entirely satisfactory to the parties involved.

Compromises are also appropriate if forcing a resolution is not a good option, but a quick solution is needed. For example, if two employees have two different strategies for closing a major client and neither are the obvious choice, then you might have to combine elements of each. Although both employees get to apply aspects of their strategies, neither will get to implement their entire plan.

5. Accommodating

Accommodating is a technique used to resolve a conflict by basically smoothing over any issues that are causing the conflict. It requires that you prioritize the employee’s concerns over your own. Accommodating an employee can be useful if you need to buy time or provide a temporary solution due to a deadline. It can also give you the time you need to assess the situation more thoroughly. However, it’s critical that you only use this tactic in the right circumstances, or else an employee can end up abusing your willingness to accommodate them.

Situation 

Accommodation is the most appropriate option when one party knows that they’re in the wrong. If one employee knows that the other is right or if the manager knows that they’re wrong and the employee is correct, then accommodating the right party is the responsible thing to do, especially if the conflict is potentially damaging. For example, if an unfortunate mistake made by a coworker has caused an employee to miss their deadline.

Accommodating can also be useful if you need to protect more important interests. However, use accommodation sparingly since it puts the employee being accommodated into a more powerful position that they can abuse. Overusing the technique can also make it more challenging to transition into a collaborative resolution in the future.

Conflict Management

A good manager is a good leader. Good leaders must be able to manage a wide range of personalities to inspire, encourage, and challenge them. Conflict management is a necessary skill for managing various personalities. Conflict management is the ability to effectively address and solve conflicts. The ability to manage conflict properly can also help limit any potential negative impact a dispute can have on their team or the work they’re doing. A manager who is poor at conflict management will not be able to lead their team effectively.

Why The Need To Use Conflict Strategies?

Effective conflict management requires that managers be familiar with the main conflict resolution techniques and how to use them appropriately. A conflict that isn’t appropriately addressed by the manager can grow out of hand, resulting in the following problems:

Low Team Morale

If arguments or disagreements between employees get unusually heated, it may result in tension that will linger, making it difficult for them to work together. Not only will this affect the morale of those involved in the conflict, but it will create a toxic environment that will affect the morale of the entire team.

Low Productivity

If employees are too busy arguing with each other or are so caught up with the conflict that they’re having trouble focusing, it will affect their productivity. And if a dispute is work-related (such as over what kind of process or solution to implement), it can stall your team’s productivity altogether.

Poor Quality of Work

Not only can a conflict hurt productivity, but it can also harm the quality of the work your employees are doing. If they’re unable to focus on the task at hand because of a lingering conflict, it will undoubtedly affect their performance.

Reflects poorly on the Team Manager

Finally, if the conflict remains unresolved, it will not only cause issues among your employees, it will cause problems with the manager. Employees will see their manager’s inability to address the conflict or to solve it as a sign of poor leadership. When this happens, your manager will find it more and more challenging to inspire their team and to get their team to follow their instructions.

Helpful Tips On Resolving A Conflict

Knowing what conflict resolution techniques to use for different situations is essential. However, the effectiveness of those techniques will depend on the manager’s ability to leverage them successfully. The manager should engage with their employees in an empathetic way that doesn’t exacerbate the situation to reach the best possible resolution. Here are a few tips on how a manager should address conflict while minimizing any potential adverse effects it could have.

Listen Intently

You can’t resolve a conflict if you don’t understand what the conflict is. To address the conflict successfully, you’ll need to listen to every party involved so that you obtain all of the details. By listening to every party, you show them that you care about what their point of view is, which can help to alleviate some of the tension that might exist.

Speak Out and Be Open

If you’re trying to resolve a conflict between two parties, then you must act as a mediator. Being a mediator requires that you speak out and be open about the information that you have about the conflict and your opinions and feelings concerning the dispute. The last thing you want is for employees to think you’re not honest about the situation or that you are silently judging them, which can lead to misunderstandings and, ultimately, resentment.

Give Everyone A Chance To Speak

Always make sure that every party involved in the conflict has an opportunity to share their side. If you don’t give everyone the chance to speak, then those who don’t get that opportunity will feel like you’re taking sides.

Don’t Take Sides

Taking sides is generally not a good idea unless one employee is clearly in the wrong. If you take sides, it can breed resentment in the “losing” side and create a power dynamic between parties that didn’t exist before.

Address The Conflict Immediately

Unless you feel like the conflict is so petty or minor that withdrawing is appropriate, you should address the conflict right away. The longer you let it go, the bigger it will likely grow. By addressing conflict quickly, you may be able to preserve the relationships between your employees. The sooner you address a dispute, the more likely collaboration will still be an option. 

Promote Teamwork

Whenever possible, try to encourage collaboration to solve a conflict. By getting team members to collaborate on resolving a conflict, you’ll help strengthen their relationship or, at the very least, preserve their respect for one another. The more capable your employees are of working together to solve conflicts, the more they will improve their communication and collaboration skills, allowing them to avoid significant conflicts in the future as well.

Encourage and Motivate

Encourage involved parties to take their time explaining their point of view. This can help to calm the situation down if things have gotten a bit ugly between parties. You should also motivate employees to collaborate on conflict resolution by reminding them that their ability to work together, in general, is needed to complete team projects on time successfully.

Choose A Conflict Resolution Technique That Inspires Commitment

Conflict management is essential to maintaining a healthy and productive work environment. Disputes are inevitable, which is why good leadership is needed to help address and resolve conflicts, whether big or small. It’s why it’s so important that everyone in a leadership role, from your managers to your CEO, is familiar with the main conflict resolution techniques and when to use them. The ability to use the right conflict resolution technique for the right situation can not only limit potential adverse effects on your employees, but it can also inspire commitment from your team.


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This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  No attorney-client relationship is created between the author and reader of this blog post, and its content should not be relied upon as legal advice.  Readers are urged to consult legal counsel when seeking legal advice.

Topics: Managing Employees