Handling Conflict Resolution in the Workplace – Part Two
In our last blog, we look at how conflict arises and why it’s important to develop the skills to handle conflict resolution. Here, we’ll show you some more techniques to cover certain difficult situations as they arise.
The goal of conflict resolution is not to get to a right or wrong situation. The aim 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. Furthermore, to discover needs, you must try to find out why people want the solutions they initially proposed. Once you understand the advantages their solutions have for them, you have discovered their needs. In essence, you are aiming for the perfect zero-sum game.
The term, ‘zero-sum game’, comes from game theory and says each person’s gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participants. Consequently, if the total gains of the employees are added up and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero. In the world of conflict mediation, it has been borrowed to add weight to the idea of a win-win solution.
If the conflict is causing a disruption in the workplace and remains unresolved, you may need to explore other avenues. Therefore, an outside facilitator may be able to offer other insights into solving the problem. In some cases, the conflict can become a performance issue. In this case, it may become a topic for performance appraisals, coaching sessions, or even disciplinary action.
One of the most common problems managers face among employees is when two staff members don’t get along. It could be due to a personality clash, a work style difference, or both employees having very different opinions about something, professionally or personally. Whichever it is, it can be tough to navigate.
One key strategy is to keep communication channels open. Be sure to set up an expectation for all parties involved that not resolving the issue is not an option.
Successful managers will understand that a small issue can become a larger issue that affects the entire team, if not handled effectively and swiftly.
These are four conflict resolution skills every manager should know
- Do not fear conflict! Conflict, by definition, is simply a difference of opinions, ideas, viewpoints, or approaches. Conflict is positive; without it, we would never have innovation or growth.
- Conflict only turns negative when emotions take a front seat to intellect. Encourage individuals to be able to separate opinions and feelings from facts.
- Watch language patterns when mediating conflict. Choose ‘I’ over ‘You’ statements to avoid judgment or labelling.
- Don’t exaggerate by using words like ‘every’, ‘always’, or ‘never’. Especially, when dealing with conflict related to correcting behaviours or performance, cite specific examples.
If you can’t help the parties involved come to a resolution by yourself, then it’s time to seek advice. Seek out your mentors in the company before you go to your boss. The worst thing you can do is go to your manager and be seen as someone who can’t handle conflict – a trait that leaders should all have. Find your mentors in the company and provide all the background information to them, so that they can provide you feedback. Be aware that managers typically play to favourites when making decisions on who to promote and support. It is important to not side with one employee because you like them more or you’re bound to make the conflict worse. By maintaining your objectivity, you will end up with a better solution and feel better about it. Again, take a step back and start asking the right questions and analyse the situation as an outsider.
In closing, here’s some advice:
- Get in there and deal with ‘it’ as soon as you see it
- Don’t assume you know everything about the situation
- Ask questions of everyone involved
- Listen to all perspectives
- Don’t focus on blame or who created the problem
- Work collaboratively to find a solution that everyone involved can support (or at least accept)
The most common reason that conflict in the workplace escalates is that nobody does anything. Everyone thinks they’re right and are waiting for the other person to admit they’re wrong. It may be unpleasant to tackle conflicts, but if left unchecked, it will worsen.