Conflict is an unavoidable part of human interaction, so it is only natural that it should crop up in the workplace. But as common as conflict can be, it is something that people struggle to handle with grace. This is why it is especially important for leaders to have a firm understanding of conflict resolution – the ability to handle disputes involving themselves or other employees can work wonders in avoiding a breakdown in teamwork, communication and productivity.
The most important thing to keep in mind when resolving conflicts is that everyone has a different perspective on any given situation. Peter Bregman, in the Harvard Business Review, stresses that it is intention versus consequences that trips people up; Party A might do or say something with the best of intentions, but if the interpretation and consequences are entirely different for Party B, discord may ensue. In such cases, it is important that the offending party and mediators not downplay the aggrieved party’s feelings.
Instead, recognize that the aggrieved party may have valid reasons for being upset. Don’t dismiss them as being difficult, and try to understand their point of view. Treating them like they’re being irrational will only fan the flames.
Listen to the ideas they’re presenting and try to look for a third option – perhaps one that allows both parties to meet halfway.
Take steps to remove ambiguity from communication. Start writing agreements down, and encourage your employees to do so. This leaves less room for contention over who agreed to what, or who said what to whom.
Have you ever had to resolve a conflict in the workplace? What were some of your strategies? Let us know in the comments.