Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable and not something to be feared. In fact, conflict handled well is a sign of a healthy, high performing team.
However, without appropriate conflict resolution strategies, your team may be inclined to take the nuclear option, or avoid conflict altogether, which are both likely to lead to escalation, increased resentment, withdrawal and burnout.
To assist, look towards these eight workplace conflict resolution strategies to help you navigate conflict, unite your team, and find new opportunities for personal development.
Recognise we are bias
Firstly, understand that we all have preconceived ideas and biases. We all think we are right and other people are wrong, so resolving conflict requires we try and overcome our self-centered perceptions of fairness. This might include bringing in an independent mediator to help see the situation without bias.
One tool to help see things from a different perspective is to show empathy towards your counterpart’s situation and emotional state.
Acknowledge their frustrations, actively listen, and do not interrupt. When you hear and understand what someone has to say – whether you agree with it or not – it will help them feel heard and understood, and may even help you see their point of view. On the other hand, if you interrupt, it communicates that you do not value what they have to say.
Ensure Clear Communications:
The famous management consultant, Dale Carnagie, is famously quoted as saying that 90 per cent of management problems stem from misunderstandings.
Whatever the figure is, avoiding misunderstandings with clear communications is critical to resolving conflict, and avoiding it in the first place. This comes back to listening and truly understanding what people have to say. Because… imagine if you are arguing over different things!!
Don’t Accuse, Threaten or Provoke:
If you feel like you are not being heard, you might feel like making provocative and inflammatory statements or ultimatums to try and get your point across.
For obvious reasons this is unlikely to help and will probably result in a rapid deterioration of the conflict and make the relationship harder to repair.
The “I’s” have it:
Building upon the previous point of not accusing people, do not talk about what your counterpart did or did not do, but rather talk about yourself.
Consider the difference between the accusatory statement: “You didn’t help me.” and the gentler “I felt like I was under huge pressure to get it done.”.
An apology is an extremely powerful yet underused tool for resolving and de-escalating conflict. People are often too afraid or proud to apologise as they think it admits guilt or failure, however if conflict has escalated it is likely that both parties will have something to apologise for.
When you apologise, ensure you are clear about “what” you are apologising for. Admit your feelings and motivations behind your actions, acknowledge the consequences and ask for forgiveness. You will be amazed at how effective it can be in finding a compromise.
Show a Willingness to Compromise
If you can establish that a cooperative framework is on the table, then suddenly it opens up the negotiation. It shows that you value what your counterpart has to say, and that they are recognised, heard and appreciated.
Compromise should not be seen as weakness but rather a demonstration of integrity, and character.
Understand your colleagues with DiSC
DISC personality profiling is a tool to measure people’s behavioural tendencies, which helps us understand why they might behave in a certain way, and how they like to be communicated with.
Having a DiSC profile of your team assists with conflict resolution by helping everyone understand themselves and their colleagues’ personality type and preferred communication styles, giving them the knowledge to improve working relationships.