Managing Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

When a company employs others, it’s likely that conflict resolution in the workplace will need to occur.  Sometimes, the conflict can be handled by the employees who are at odds, other times another employee or manager will have to step in.  Either way, resolving conflict in a timely and efficient manner is essential to the continued success of the company and positivity of the overall company culture.

When conflict resolution in the workplace is required, there are a few action steps that need to be taken to eliminate the differences and return focus to the matter at hand, company success.

Acknowledge

Conflict is bound to happen, so getting used to that idea and being willing to face it head-on is an invaluable skill. When issues are swept under the rug, they never truly disappear.  The knowledge of the dirty floor still lingers despite it being hidden.

When conflict appears, take the time to acknowledge that an issue is present and that a resolution must occur.  This is not the time to choose sides prematurely or make assumptions about what may or may not have happened. Instead, be open to the idea that there is an issue and be understanding that your employees are likely upset about the matter at hand.

Self Resolve

Many disputes can be resolved without the involvement of management.  Once you acknowledge an issue, encourage employees to sit down and attempt to solve the problem themselves.  When you give them the opportunity to resolve their problem instead of immediately stepping in, you set the precedent that resolving issues independently should be the first step.

Provide them with a timeframe to attempt to solve their problem and check back in with them.  If it has been resolved, great. You can check back in overtime to make sure the issue hasn’t resurfaced.  If not, continue with the conflict resolution process.

It’s important to exercise good judgment when deciding whether your employees can resolve the conflict themselves.  If the issue is ongoing, involves extreme disrespect, discrimination, harassment, etc., you wouldn’t expect them to handle it independently, and you should forego this step.

Express

When a person is upset, they want to vent their frustrations and feel heard. Giving your employees the opportunity to do so allows them to release their feelings which will make the conflict resolution process more productive.

Facilitate this process properly.  If both employees are in the room, ensure they’re not interrupting each other or displaying disrespectful body language.  Sometimes it’s best to hear both sides separately, then bring them together. You must do what’s best for the specific situation based on personalities, the nature of the conflict, and your company culture.

Policy

Sometimes conflict resolution in the workplace will be simple because the issue will directly violate company policy or the policy will have a detailed process regarding what’s to happen in the specific situation.

If there are guidelines, you want to follow them, if not, you must move forward in deciding on a solution that works best for the employees and company.

Solution

Now it’s time to determine what specific steps need to take place to resolve this conflict. It’s important to remember at this time that a full agreement doesn’t need to occur because sometimes employees will have to agree to disagree.  Instead, discuss what each employee would like to see happen and determine how they can find a middle ground. Any commonalities that can be agreed upon during this time is a significant step.

The solution stage should be tailored to your company culture, the issues at hand, and your employees, but there are a few parts of the process that should be included.  These were provided by the Human Resources Department at the University of California Berkeley.

Find multiple alternatives

Brainstorm various ways in which this problem can be resolved. Allow each member involved to provide input, so their voice continues to be heard.

Determine actions to be taken

Once a list of possible solutions is developed, determine the best course of action moving forward.  Consider the pros and cons, both logistically and emotionally for each option.

Get a verbal agreement by all involved

This step is critical. You want everyone to agree to the solution verbally as his or her acknowledgment that he or she will do their part in ending the conflict. If an employee refuses to agree, the odds are likely that the issue will repeat itself, and get worse as time goes on.  If this is the case you might consider bringing in a conflict mediator, or if insubordination is at play, a consequence might be needed.

Follow-Up

Completing the conflict resolution process is not a guarantee that the issue at hand will be resolved.  It’s best to check back in with those involved from time to time to determine whether the problem is continuing or if it is no longer prevalent.  

If the issue is still not resolved, again, it might be time to bring in a mediator, or if there is a case of insubordination, consequences might need to be given to certain people involved.

Having conflict in the workplace is never a fun thing to deal with, but sometimes resolving conflict can lead to better communication and ultimately a stronger bond between employees.  Never sweep issues under the rug. Bring them to the forefront and understand that it is your responsibility to maintain a positive and healthy environment of engaged employees and that’s difficult to do when there is no conflict resolution in the workplace.

If you want to learn more about maintaining engaged employees, you can download my free e-book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement. In this book, I break down best practices to get your employees engaged in your company’s success.

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