Earn Respect With 7 Conflict Resolution Strategies for Work

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 17 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As you work closely with your colleagues, conflicts and misunderstanding can arise as you try to advocate for the greater good of your organisation. Thus, conflict resolution is a process that targets these disputes so that you can restore harmony in your work setting efficiently. Understanding how to employ proper conflict management skills ensures you maintain a positive working relationship with your co-workers. In this article, we cover what conflict resolution is, explain why it's important, describe the seven-step process, list out the key skills you need to employ and share examples of good conflict management.

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict resolution, or conflict management, is the process of resolving a dispute between two or more people. Its goal is to equip professionals with the proper characteristics and techniques so that people can disagree with respect and a calm attitude. However, should a problem escalate, conflict management also helps you identify whether to intervene and when to act with assertiveness.

Conflicts can occur between colleagues, managers or between an organisation and external groups. However, the conflict management process ensures you choose the best course of action. People skilled in this area are excellent mediators. They can work with people that have difficult personalities and improve the tonality of their relationships.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definition, How To Learn and Example

Why is conflict management important?

Conflict management is important because it nurtures a good working environment. When professionals deal with conflicts quickly, it means that a company can restore its productivity and profitability. The following describes the importance of conflict management in greater detail:

Strengthens relationships

While most people try to avoid conflicts, they can actually bring people closer together. Healthy conflicts in the workplace show people care about their work and want to see their organisation prosper. Keeping this in mind can help you approach a challenging situation with empathy for your colleagues. Sometimes people just want their advice to be heard rather than acted upon. Thus, it's important to show your colleagues respect during a conflict.

The key to conflict management is how you approach the situation. If you attempt to resolve conflicts quickly without resorting to bullying or blaming, tough situations can actually help strengthen your relationships.

Accomplishes goals

When you resolve a dispute quickly, it means that you can get back to normal business operations as efficiently as possible. This minimises additional delays, costs and work pressure. People thrive in a positive work environment, therefore, it's important to be open and honest about how you feel about a situation. The quicker you get past a problem, the more productive you can be towards your organisational objectives. Supervisors may also take notice of your initiative to maintain peace, and therefore, may feel more inclined to trust your judgement during a challenge.

Related: 18 Good Leadership Qualities for Career Success

7 steps of conflict management

The following are seven steps you can consider when resolving an ongoing conflict in the workplace:

1. Welcome healthy disagreements

Healthy disagreements play a crucial role in the success of a business. It shows the passion of your colleagues and can safeguard your organisation from financial trouble. Thus, it's important to listen to opposing ideas in a supportive environment.

Leaders in an organisation can encourage their co-workers to voice their opinion by being a good role model of respect and empathy. Supporting values that foster a safe culture can also ensure professionals deal with conflicts in a healthy manner.

2. Preempt unnecessary conflict

Through open communication, you can avoid needless conflict. For example, if you notice that your colleague acting defensive or the tension in the room is escalating, address the conflict instead of pretending it isn't there. This ensures that everyone gets the chance to express their feelings and resolve their issues before problems impact productivity or profitability. Try your best to communicate your thoughts clearly to avoid future misunderstandings.

3. Employ different conflict management skills

Make it a point to learn different conflict management strategies and skills. Since conflicts can arise due to a variety of reasons, it's beneficial to have different tools to work with. This way, you can choose the most appropriate method for the circumstances you face. For example, it's important to discern whether to be assertive or accommodating in a conflict because each strategy yields different results. The more comfortable you become with conflict management, the more you can improve your ability to judge a situation.

4. Respect boundaries

Familiarise yourself with your team members and get to know their personalities better. This can inform you about their personal boundaries, and therefore, how to approach them in a tough conversation. The key things to understand are their values, ambitions and communication style. Treat people as if they have the best intentions so that you can be more compassionate.

5. Address emotions

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to successfully resolving conflicts is heightened emotions. When emotions cloud judgment, it's challenging to reach a clear decision, no matter how long the discussion is. It boils down to learning how to separate issues and people, which is not a straightforward task.

A few strategies that you can use to avoid getting caught up in emotions include recognising that fear often manifests as anger, monitoring your body language and speech patterns and simply focusing on the conflict. Distinguishing between fear and anger is useful because it can help you to avoid making assumptions.

6. Don't avoid tense situations

Toxic work environments are a result of years of unaddressed conflict. Either people are afraid to confront the issue or feel too burnt out to do anything about it. Thus, you can ensure conflicts don't affect your relationships in the long run by taking the initiative to work on a problem.

7. Act quickly

Timing is key to conflict management. The longer you let emotions fester, the more likely it's to impact the quality of your work relationships. Although they can make for tough conversations, most people appreciate it when you're open with them about your emotions. Acting quickly ensures you deal with the conflict as soon as possible. It can also increase trust and respect between you and your colleagues.

Key conflict management skills

The following is a summary of the key skills involved in conflict management:

  • Assertiveness: Sometimes you need to be firm in the workplace to advocate for the right things. People might respect your effort to hold on to your integrity even though it may seem difficult at first.

  • Mediation: Asking someone to help mediate a conflict, such as your supervisor or a human resources professional, might be the best possible way to resolve a conflict. It's important to recognise when you feel overwhelmed so that a mediator calm down a tense situation.

  • Empathy: In a conflict, it's important to acknowledge the emotions of the other party. Compassion can help you resolve a conflict quickly. This way, people are also more likely to rely on you to remain professional when challenges arise in the future.

  • Active listening: Employing good listening skills can defuse an escalating situation. When you listen actively, you pick up on crucial details about the other party's ideas and values, which you can use to come to a sound compromise. You can display attentive listening skills by asking clarifying questions, maintaining eye contact and minimising interruptions.

  • Accountability: When you admit your mistakes, you encourage the other party to treat you with the same level of respect and responsibility. Taking ownership of your part in the problem can help prevent ill feelings and restore trust within a team.

  • Creative problem-solving: When nothing seems to work, you might need to employ a creative solution to keep both sides happy. Viewing conflicts as an opportunity to do something different can help you navigate challenges successfully.

  • Facilitation: Facilitation skills include your ability to be diplomatic, patient and humble in a team dynamic. Collaborating with your colleagues in a healthy way can help you minimise conflicts between your team members.

Related: How To Apologise at Work: Guided Steps and Examples

Example of conflict management

The following is an example of a professional's effective use of conflict management skills and strategies to cope with an escalating conflict:

Oliver and Rachel are assigned to a new project. Oliver already has an overwhelming workload while Rachel has more availability. Assuming that Rachel will take the lead, Oliver doesn't attend a few meetings and neglects several tasks assigned to him. Meanwhile, Rachel interprets his lack of initiative as laziness. Rachel begins loudly complaining about Oliver in shared workspaces. Oliver overhears these complaints, which exacerbates his existing work stress.

Their supervisor, John, overhears the commotion and intervenes. As a mediator, John asks them to express their feelings calmly. Rachel realises Oliver's situation and compromises by accepting greater responsibility for the project. Oliver appreciates Rachel's effort and promises to communicate more openly and attend meetings more regularly.

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