Conflict Resolution In The Workplace

Conflict is a natural part of life, whether that be in our day-to-day lives, within our families, or of course, our workplaces. We're going to discuss some of the ways you can navigate conflict resolution in the workplace since it can be a learning opportunity for leaders at all levels. At IRI Consultants, we feel it's our responsibility to share tips you can implement to ensure that team members and supervisors alike can appropriately handle conflict, and ultimately, move past it. Entrepreneur.com recently released a helpful "5 C's to Conflict Resolution" that includes carefully listening, calmly discussing, and more, which can provide some great input on this topic.

Our team had decades of experience with connecting your workplace with the tools and skills needed to improve communication, for leaders to motivate their teams, and to support employees at all levels. We'll discuss some strategies for resolving conflict and tools to improve the overall culture of your organization. Not only will you feel more confident addressing conflict in the workplace, but you will improve the connection between leadership and employees and facilitate an open-door policy that fosters positive communication among your entire organization. We've also shared about the different causes of workplace conflict, types of interpersonal conflict, as well as the importance of being able to de-escalate a conflict and the skills it requires.

Emotional Intelligence is Key When it Comes to Conflict Management

Most importantly, your leaders need to develop the emotional intelligence necessary to pick up on body language and demonstrate proper conflict resolution skills. This includes effective listening skills, the ability to communicate effectively, and understand that, though all team members may have different work styles, it's still possible to recognize a conflict and use problem solving skills to neutralize the situation and find the best solution. Strong emotions and negative feelings don't have to lead to workplace conflicts. Here are some ways to handle the next conflict that arises in your organization.

conflict resolution process

Effective Communication Skills and Building Trust

One of the most important conflict resolution skills needed for leaders is effective communication. Considering that a lack of effective communication is one of the most common causes of conflict for managers and supervisors, this is a good place to start working closely with your leaders. Management and leaders alike must have the skills to maintain communication and deepen their connection with employees at all levels. 

To perpetuate effective communication within your organization, there are a few critical steps to take. In addition to an open-door policy, employees must always feel comfortable coming to management at any level and feel that any concerns that they have or feedback they deliver is being heard and taken seriously. Of course, it is equally important for your leaders to practice active listening skills, so there is no question as to whether employees believe their voice is being heard.

Trust is another huge element when it comes to communication. We've written about some of the tools to build trust in the workplace, and communication is number one for a reason! If communication has been an issue you've noticed is prevalent in your workplace, whether from employee engagement surveys or after soliciting feedback from employees, this is an opportunity for you to implement leadership training to address it before it becomes a bigger problem. A conflict may arise when there is a lack of trust and team members don't feel like there is a healthy relationship between leadership and employees.

conflict resolution in the workplace

Conflict Resolution Strategies and Process

The conflict resolution process can fluctuate depending on where you look, but ultimately, the problem-solving steps and strategies you'll implement are essentially the same. Here is a basic process for resolving conflict in the workplace:

  1. Address the problem. Of course, the first step is acknowledging that there is a conflict to be addressed. With open and honest communication, the involved parties need to recognize there is an issue to overcome.
  2. Listen; be open and empathetic to information from all sides. This is a critical step to the process, as there are likely uncomfortable feelings and emotions that your employee(s) need to share. This builds the bond of trust between leadership and team members and helps everyone start fixing the issue(s).
  3. Brainstorm solutions and evaluate which is best. Ask questions! This is when you'll really put your problem-solving skills to the test to find a positive outcome. Ask to define the problem and come up with solutions that will benefit everyone involved. It's possible that airing out the conflict is half the solution, but be willing to discuss what will be most effective while being open to many solutions.
  4. Choose a solution. After discussing all the possible solutions, help your employee(s) to agree on a solution that balances what everyone needs. Finding the right solution is essential to solve conflicts, especially as a neutral third party. A peaceful resolution can be the best way to establish mutual trust with the people involved, and even to avoid conflict in the future!
  5. Make a plan to follow-up. Again, this comes down to trust and communication. You will have a huge impact on your employees' trust if you make a plan to follow-up on the conflict, the solutions discussed, the solution that was chosen, and then, most importantly, you actually follow through on the follow-up! If you want to resolve conflicts, you can't just find a solution, you have to establish trust that you care about what happens next. This helps you get a better understanding of each person's point of view and help employees work together.

Find Solutions and Follow-Up After Conflict Occurs

Conflict resolution is not a one-and-done strategy, and it is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The basic premise for managing conflict is the same, from addressing the problem to brainstorming solutions that result in a peaceful solution for everyone, and ultimately following up on that solution. There must be a plan in place if the chosen solution doesn't work out, or both parties involved don't agree to move past the initial conflict. There’s always going to be difficult employees that you have to deal with as a leader in the workplace, but the good news is that you don't have to fear conflict. Once there is a plan in place and leadership training that all can easily adopt, conflict resolution skills can be learned, and your leaders can gain a deep understanding and confidence in their abilities.

Conflict Resolution Training

If your organization's managers need to develop key skills to resolve conflict, our A Better Leader lesson titled "Conflict Resolution" is just what you need! You can schedule a free demo or sign up for a 14-day trial to get started with your first training today. Help your leaders know the appropriate time to intervene and what they can do to manage conflict.

Here's what your leaders will come away with when they complete "Conflict Resolution" training from A Better Leader:

  • What conflict is, and how it can harm - but also help - a team
  • What time is the right time for leaders to intervene
  • Insight into a conflict resolution session
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About the Author Walter Orechwa

Walter is Director of IRI's Digital Workplace Solutions Group, and the founder of A Better Leader. Walter provides expert advice, highly effective employee communication resources and ongoing learning opportunities for Human Resources and Labor Relations professionals.