It’s crucial to steer clear of personal attacks and emotional responses. Instead, maintain a laser-like focus on the problem itself. ~ Riley Beam, Managing Attorney, Douglas R. Beam, P.A.
From ensuring everyone feels heard to resolving conflicts ASAP fifteen industry leaders, including directors and CEOs, share their paramount strategies for navigating workplace conflicts. This article compiles a diverse array of insights, reflecting the collective wisdom of seasoned professionals on one of the most crucial aspects of organizational dynamics. Discover the key factors these experts emphasize for effectively handling conflict in the workplace.
- Ensure Everyone Feels Heard
- Build Trust with Confidentiality
- Maintain Impartial Mediation
- Practice Empathy
- Compromise on Common Ground
- Train the Team in Solution-Finding
- Establish a Transparent Process
- Manage Emotions During Conflict
- Focus on the Core Problem
- Discern Worthwhile Conflicts
- Keep Your Staff Updated
- Begin With Agreement
- Prioritize Direct Communication
- Hold Sit-Stand Meetings
- Resolve Conflicts ASAP
Ensure Everyone Feels Heard
Before completing the meeting, check in with everyone. It is critical that everyone feels heard and that their needs are satisfied to some extent. At the start of the first and second sessions, I recommend setting realistic expectations by saying, “Our goal will be to satisfy each person’s needs as much as possible.”
Build Trust with Confidentiality
Maintaining confidentiality in conflict resolution is a key practice, as it treats the sensitive details of a dispute with discretion, respecting the privacy of the individuals involved. Employees need assurance that their concerns won’t become office gossip, and keeping discussions private builds much-needed trust in the conflict resolution process.
This commitment to confidentiality creates a safe space for open dialogue, encouraging team members to express themselves freely, without fear of repercussions. When it comes to proper conflict resolution, it’s about creating a culture of respect and discretion, ensuring that what happens in conflict resolution stays in the room.
Maintain Impartial Mediation
There should always be someone to mediate the conflict. It is important to have a third party evaluate the situation from the outside looking in. The mediator isn’t emotionally involved in the conflict, so they can think more clearly and fairly about the matter.
This person should not be directly involved in the problem. Ideally, they should not even have any personal affiliations with the employees in disagreement. Any connection could stipulate a conflict of interest and prevent them from addressing either employee impartially.
Empathy is the secret sauce in managing workplace conflicts. Picture this: a team member is steamed up about a missed deadline. Instead of brushing it off, you get where they’re coming from. This move does wonders—it’s not just about calming the storm but making sure everyone’s on the same page.
When folks feel understood, they’re more likely to pull together and solve problems faster. And let’s be real, a team that works well together is a team that gets results. I’ve seen it turn teams around, boosting productivity and, ultimately, our bottom line. It’s smart for your business.
Compromise on Common Ground
Although there are many acknowledged conflict-resolution techniques, I believe the most effective in workplace settings are those that enable parties to discover areas of agreement and utilize those as the foundation for developing an acceptable compromise solution.
Naturally, not every conflict can be settled by the parties themselves, and a solution imposed by management may be necessary. When the parties can create their own, it is more likely to succeed in the long run than one imposed by management. When the parties can reach a mutually acceptable solution, be sure to publicly commend—if feasible, without breaching the parties’ private rights—each party for their maturity and dedication.
Train the Team in Solution-Finding
One of the best methods for handling conflicts is to train your team to find each other’s solutions. Too often, conflicts can turn into debates in which neither side wants to budge on their position—the harder each side pushes, the more resolved they are to win.
When you’re talking out a disagreement, have each party try to figure out solutions to solve the other person’s side. Opening up those conversations and focusing on delivering what you can for the other person can help you practice empathy, understand the other side, and find a way to blend those two “half-solutions” into a compromise.
Establish a Transparent Process
It’s vital to have a structured, transparent, and unbiased process established and ready to handle all notable and significant workplace conflicts. This will, first of all, help to take the emotional tension out of a potentially escalating scenario because uncertainty is one of the biggest drivers of that kind of intensity. You want your staff to be reassured from the outset that there is a process in place to investigate and resolve their conflicts.
It’s also important to recognize that in most cases, employees will be accommodating to your resolution once you can demonstrate a genuine attempt to solve and understand whatever conflicts arise for them. For this reason, having an established process is also critical.
Manage Emotions During Conflict
One key factor in effectively handling workplace conflicts is the efficient management of emotions. You can’t let your emotions overpower you, irrespective of the type of workplace conflict; it will affect your logical thinking and can lead to actions that you will regret later. In some cases, you may believe it was not your mistake, and you may feel you are being treated unfairly.
At such times, getting carried away with emotions is a common occurrence. However, it can escalate the situation and extend the workplace conflict for days. Thus, you must try your best to rein in your emotions. To do that, take a deep breath and count the numbers in your mind. Once you calm your mind, you will be able to think clearly.
Focus on the Core Problem
It’s crucial to steer clear of personal attacks and emotional responses. Instead, maintain a laser-like focus on the problem itself. This approach not only helps in de-escalating tensions but also paves the way for finding mutually beneficial solutions.
When individuals can put aside personal differences and concentrate on resolving the core problem, the chances of reaching a resolution that satisfies all parties significantly increase. Remind both parties that, in the end, you want to foster a constructive dialogue that leads to practical, fair, and sustainable outcomes.
Discern Worthwhile Conflicts
Understanding when they are worth pursuing is important. Some workplace conflicts are unavoidable and can be helpful to your overall well-being and the running of the business.
Others, on the other hand, serve no benefit to anyone to pursue and will just exhaust you and engender the seeds of future conflict. Understanding which situation is going to lead to which outcome is a learned skill and requires a cool head to calculate what is worth spending your time and energy on and what is not.
Keep Your Staff Updated
The major piece of advice I can give is to ensure that any conflict is dealt with quickly, even if that’s just initial acknowledgment while senior leadership resolves the issue. Not only do you want to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, but it’s also important to let your staff know that you’re looking into the issue as soon as it is brought to your attention.
Begin With Agreement
Always start with your points of agreement. This can lower overall defensiveness and is an early olive branch that demonstrates a desire to understand and compromise. These points of agreement are the foundation of consensus, and without it, you will all be approaching the conversation with something to prove.
In most workplace conflicts, especially petty ones, people just want to feel heard and feel like they are “right,” so agreeing with something off the top can satisfy that urge and allow the conversation to move forward.
Prioritize Direct Communication
To handle conflict in the workplace professionally and effectively, you need to be direct and avoid getting personal. Being direct means you aren’t allowing resentments and potential miscommunications to build up.
Instead, approach the person with whom you have an issue directly and communicate a desire to get on the same page. Focus on the impact their actions had on your ability to work, rather than attacking the other party’s personality or work ethic.
Hold Sit-Stand Meetings
One key factor for handling workplace conflicts effectively is understanding. Both parties should be willing to understand each other’s needs and points of view. This could include recognizing one another’s personal values and experiences, as well as listening actively to understand the situation instead of merely hearing what the other has to say.
For example, when a disagreement arises in a team setting, sit-stand meetings can be used as an uncommon way to approach the problem. The idea behind this method is that when people feel more comfortable standing up, they are more likely to communicate openly and honestly about problems, rather than face-to-face when seated for prolonged periods, which may make everyone uncomfortable or less likely to speak up.
Resolve Conflicts ASAP
The most important factor for effective conflict management is speed. Generally speaking, the faster conflicts are resolved, the lower the collateral damage associated with them. Conflicts snowball the longer they may persist, growing both in terms of scope and severity, and in the number of people involved.
Over time, grievances accumulate, relationships sour, and eventually, the situation becomes irreparable. Consequently, conflicts should be resolved quickly and without hesitation, preventing them from spiraling out of control down the line. This can be challenging for people with an avoidant conflict style, but ultimately it is in the best interests of every party involved.