Resolving Workplace Conflict

Resolving Workplace Conflict

November 29, 2017

By  Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor

Many experts believe that workplace conflict is actually a necessary ingredient to an organization’s success. A culture where it feels safe to communicate disagreement can spur innovation, diversity of thought and better decision-making which ultimately creates a more effective team. The challenge however, is dealing with conflicts that turn from a healthy encounter to that which becomes emotional, personal and harmful. 

Using the right approaches to deal with unhealthy workplace conflict can help resolve issues while maintaining positive relationships. Here are 6 tips for managing conflict in the workplace:

  1. Define Acceptable Behavior: A simple step to avoiding conflict is to communicate a what constitutes acceptable behavior. Provide clearly defined job descriptions so that people know what’s expected of them, and make sure they understand the chain of command to allow for successful communication. Ensure all employees know what will and won't be tolerated.
  2. Use Effective Communication: If you look back upon conflicts you have encountered over the years, you’ll recognize that many of them resulted from a lack of information, misinformation or no information. Clear and timely communication of information can go a long way to reducing the incidence of conflict and reducing its severity.
  3. Deal with Conflict Head-on: If a conflict situation does arise, you will likely minimize its negative impact by dealing with it quickly. Pull both parties together and focus on a discussion around fixing the problem, not placing blame. Listen, understand, and empathize with the other person to avoid an argument and facilitate conversation. Use this opportunity to create a flow of new approaches to successfully working together. 
  4. Deal with Facts: When dealing with a conflict, address the problem and not the personalities involved. Try not to pass judgement on other people or their ideas.  Maintain a balanced, goal-oriented frame of mind. This approach will help you separate the issues from the people involved, and avoid any defensiveness.
  5. Understand the Other: It is essential to understand other’s motivations prior to weighing in on a conflict.  Ask about others goals and how you can help them achieve them. When they see that you are taking actions to help them fewer complications will stand in the way with regard to conflict resolution.
  6. View Conflict as Opportunity: Difficult situations always offer an opportunity to learn and grow as a professional and many leaders leverage workplace conflict for team building and leadership development purposes. Remember that discussing differing opinions properly can inspire innovation and learning in ways like minds cannot.