Resolving Conflict in the Workplace Part I

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion” – Dale Carnegie

Although we would like to think conflict is avoidable in the workforce, it undoubtedly arises from time to time. Our first reaction may be to see it as something negative, but we must recognize that conflict is a normal, healthy outcome resulting from differences in opinion. It is likely to happen when the same people interact regularly and is an indicator that employees are actively sharing their thoughts and their opinions.

The ability to resolve conflict effectively is a sign of good leadership, and should even be addressed during corporate training. When dealt with properly, conflict can and should lead to constructive outcomes. Conflict can in fact help call attention to problems rooted in the workplace that need to be addressed. It can inspire creative problem-solving, and disagreements can even lead to new and innovative ideas.

That being said, conflict resolution must be done practically and efficiently to avoid complicating the issue at hand. The way you respond to conflict will have an impact on how quickly it is resolved. Some people approach the situation too directly and point fingers, while others do not speak up confidently because they are afraid of hurting others’ feelings. There is a middle ground to both approaches.

In order to find a resolution, you must understand the issue completely and be able to see other points of view. Empathy is a part of this process, and it will help you resolve the conflict in a way that is fair and professional.

1.     Think Positively

Approach the situation with the expectation that it will resolve on a positive note. If you are upset or frustrated, and you let these feelings guide the way you deal with the situation, there is little chance you will be able to resolve it. Expect the best possible outcome, and this attitude will likely influence the feelings of those involved as well.

2.     Talk In-Person

The best way to resolve conflict is by discussing it in-person. Find a convenient time and place to meet where you both feel comfortable and at ease. Also, decide beforehand how much time you will to spend discussing – this will make it a requirement that you arrive at a compromise by the time is up. Meeting face-to-face allows for better communication and a better understanding of the other person’s perspective.

3.     Agree on the Problem

While you may not agree on a proposed solution after one attempt, at least agree on the problem. If you can both agree on what lies at the heart of the issue and address this, you will be able to propose steps toward a solution.

4.     Consider Other Views

It is a difficult thing to do, but take the time to understand the perspective of the other person. This is where empathy really comes into play. Think not only about the current problem but about past issues that may be contributing factors to the other person’s view. Never assume that you’re right; chances are, there are truths on both sides of the equation.

5.     Be Self-Aware

Before you approach the other person to talk, think about what you know of your personality. Do you know that you occasionally come across as aggressive? Or maybe your emotions easily influence your decisions. Be extra conscious of aspects of your personality that might hinder your ability to think logically and arrive at a compromise.

6.     Seek Out Commonalities

Instead of focusing on your differences, seek out areas of common ground. Look for mutual goals and objectives, which will remind you of the need to be on the same page. If you can focus on what you agree upon, rather than what you do not, you will find it much easier to come up with a resolution. You may even find ways to prevent the conflict from occurring again in the future.

What other strategies do you find effective for resolving conflict in the workplace?