Most of us would probably say that we avoid conflict, particularly in the workplace. When it comes to arguments and disagreements in the office, they are more headache and hassle than anything. At times, these conflicts can seem more like petty annoyances than anything worth your time and energy to deal with.
However, as someone in a leadership role, it is your job to take ownership over conflict resolution in the workplace, whether you are directly involved or stepping in as a mediator.
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable, if only because you’re working day-in and day-out with very different people in close quarters. The question is whether or not you’ll be prepared to deal with it when it happens.
Here are my top tips for confidently and peaceably dealing with workplace conflict.
6 Secrets to Resolving Conflicts in the Workplace
1) Don’t shy away.
First and foremost, any leader in the workplace must be willing to embrace conflict when it arises. This doesn’t mean you create it or go looking for it, but it does mean you are willing to address it. When you refuse to bury conflict and you work to acknowledge and resolve problems, you eliminate tensions, distractions, and other interpersonal issues that can be detrimental to company culture and overall productivity.
2) Prioritize effective communication.
Many times, conflict happens solely because of a communications breakdown. Either information was not communicated or it was communicated poorly. We work with too little information, no information, or with information that has been misconstrued. As a leader and mediator, it is on you to straighten out the facts and open up a clear and reliable dialogue between the involved parties. Ensure that everyone ends up on the same page with all of the facts on the table.
Even then, you need to figure out how to better convey information in the follow-up to avoid communications breakdowns in the future.
3) Seek to listen.
In any conflict, listening is a key component of resolution. While most of us want to dig our heels in with the conviction that we are right, peace demands that we listen to the other side of the story. Empathize with the other side and try to see their point. It may be valid! You will have a better sense of how the conflict came about and what a happy resolution for all parties looks like if you understand the issue from every angle.
4) Create neutral ground.
A mistake that we can sometimes make is trying to deal with an issue as soon as it blows up. When emotions are running high is not always the best time to address a problem. In a position of leadership, it’s important that you direct a workplace conflict into neutral ground for a resolution. What do I mean?
I mean don’t let a conflict blow up in front of coworkers who aren’t involved. If you have an issue with someone, deal with it one-on-one or with a mediator, if you yourself are not the mediator in the conflict. Take it to a conference room once everyone has cooled off and collected their thoughts, where you're sure you won't be interrupted.
5) Set clear boundaries.
In the workplace, standards have to apply for behavior. Depending on the conflict, disciplinary action may be in order. It’s valuable that you are aware of the additional steps that may need to be taken.
At the same time, recognize your need not to get emotionally tangled up in a conflict. Set this boundary for yourself—you can’t make good business decisions based on your emotions. Nor can someone you are embroiled in a conflict with. If you know your objectivity is clouded, pull someone in to help.
6) Look for the takeaways.
Lastly, look for the teachable moment. Though none of us like conflict, these are all moments we can learn from and grow through. Whether it’s identifying our weaknesses in communication or a system that isn’t working or even discovering an area of personal growth, there is always a take away from conflict.
In the end, however, it is important to forgive. To move on from the conflict is key for sustaining peace in the workplace and to truly learn from the incident without any bitterness or lingering bad feelings.
As a leader, we must set the example in conflict resolution from beginning to end. Our team will look to us in how to address and resolve problems with coworkers. So be intentional and thoughtful in how you choose to act.
What's your workplace conflict resolution strategy? Share your personal tips in the comments.