Conflict is everywhere, especially at work. You cannot expect a group of different people with different personalities from possibly different cultures and belief systems to just agree all the time. Conflict management strategies are part of almost every manager’s management skillset because conflict at work is inevitable.
So, what is the best way to handle conflict at work? Below are a few simple steps you can take on, even as a rank-and-file employee, to squelch disagreement while it is still in its early stages:
Grab the bull by the horns
There is no point in trying to sweep things under the rug and pretending that everything is okay when it is clearly not. Sometimes, conflict is difficult to identify, but that does not translate to its absence. Conflict sometimes grows inwards and eats up your team like a termite infestation. It becomes a powerful source of work-related stress. You will not realize until it’s too late, and there is already considerable damage.
That is why one of the most essential conflict management strategies is to attack the conflict head-on. Face it and get it over and done with before it festers. If you are experiencing conflict with a workmate, start by acknowledging that you have a disagreement. Let the other concerned party know about it by scheduling a private conversation at a convenient time and place.
Eliminate all forms of personal attacks
Sure, it would be fun and satisfying to call your opponents names, but that is not the way to properly handle conflict. Name-calling, character judgments, and attacks on another are personal issues that automatically void any desire to resolve disputes.
Try to be empathetic with your approach and think of possible reasons why the person concerned is acting that way. Open yourself up to different possible rationales and try to put yourself in their shoes. Empathy is actually one of the most crucial life skills that can lead you up to success.
Sticking to the facts and being objective usually does the trick. Putting aside emotions and personal feelings toward each other and sticking to hard facts is more sensible and harder to dispute since facts cannot be changed.
Don’t be too defensive
Don’t go into a conflict management session with a full arsenal of rebuttals to answer for their arguments. You do not resolve issues by doing your darned hardest to win the discussion. A competitive mindset is not necessarily a growth mindset. In cases of conflict, it might actually do more harm.
When the other person is talking, make sure to listen attentively. Don’t interrupt them just because you feel like you can take them down using a flaw in their statements. Really listen and sincerely try to find out their perspective on things. Let them air out their concerns freely and thoroughly, and expect them to do the same for you.
Point out and focus on the main problems
Sometimes, especially during a heated argument, the main point of discussion blurs out. Things suddenly become a chaotic frenzy of hurtful words, baseless accusations, and yelling. The ending for these encounters is usually pointless and causes more harm than good despite allowing people to express their frustrations. It is simply unhealthy and utterly unprofessional.
Remember, when engaging in conflict management strategies to keep your focus on the central issues at hand. Do not try to inject irrelevant arguments just to leverage your point. Remember that your main objective is to resolve the conflict and not to win.
Come up with a solution or compromise
This should be the culminating agenda of your talk. After the issue has been identified and after both parties have aired their concerns, the final move should be to find a solution. Finding solutions have varying degrees of difficulty. It can be as simple as changing workstation positions, or as elaborate and complicated as switching departments.
The solution should ideally be as favorable to both parties as possible. However, some conflicts are not genuinely physical in nature. It can stem from opposing viewpoints. The solution to these opinionated struggles is for both parties to acknowledge positives in each other’s viewpoints while ultimately respecting the decisions made by management. Sometimes, the very act of being heard and acknowledged is enough for someone to feel less bitter.
Follow through with agreements.
This phase of the conflict resolution strategy is the one that takes the most effort. While your little talk might have ended up in an agreement, it is entirely useless if you do not follow through with it. This is most evident with the change in behaviors after the session. Opposing parties should at least be cordial with each other after airing each other’s concerns.
You should also implement the identified solution consistently as agreed upon. This can be especially challenging if the solution stretches over a long period of time. It can be in the form of a behavioral change, a change in protocol, or anything else that spans a specific timeline.
Use your emotional intelligence.
Emotional intelligence can be very helpful while you try to avoid becoming too overly sensitive when settling a conflict. It may seem a bit contrary at first glance. Still, if you realize that a sizeable emotional intelligence is being capable of acknowledging yours and other people’s emotions while being able to keep your emotions under control, it makes complete sense.
The use of emotional intelligence in conflict resolution is not only powerful but also highly effective. It is a proven strategy that medical professionals use to resolve conflict in their field. It actually allows you to be more objective and level-headed when engaging in discourse. Therefore, you can come up with solutions and compromises at a faster pace.
You can learn more about conflict management strategies from online courses such as Conflict Management With Emotional Intelligence, Conflict Management In The Workplace, and Conflict Management And Crucial Communications.
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