Conflict resolution is an important skill to develop in your business management career. Often, conflicts can grow if not addressed early and can be damaging to company morale.
Facilitated open dialogue and collaboration is often all that is needed to resolve the issue. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the conflict may not be resolved right away.
1. Identify the Problem
When a conflict arises, take the time to identify the problem and its root. This requires strong verbal and nonverbal communication skills such as active listening, paraphrasing and patience.
Some conflicts are petty, such as a battle over a parking space, but others reflect real disagreements. Using the Thomas-Kilmann model to identify the underlying issues can help you reach a resolution that satisfies both parties.
Be prepared to compromise and collaborate when necessary. Often times, the solution to a dispute is more important than winning the argument itself.
2. Listen Carefully
In order to resolve conflict, people need to be heard and understood. Misunderstanding is one of the main contributors to conflict in the workplace. Listen carefully to what each person has to say and ask questions that clarify their point of view.
Avoid questioning in an interrogation style, as this can escalate the conflict. Focus on asking open-ended questions that require more than a yes or no answer.
Acknowledge emotions that people express, as this can reduce the intensity of a disagreement.
3. Ask Questions
Rather than rushing to judgment, career leaders encourage open dialogue. They ask questions that help people articulate their feelings, beliefs, and thought processes. This allows them to better empathize with where others are coming from and find common ground.
It also allows them to explore underlying conflict sources that may not be immediately apparent. This gives them a fuller picture of the situation and helps them choose the best conflict management style for a resolution. This can lead to a mutually beneficial solution.
4. Encourage Open Dialogue
Effective communication is the backbone of conflict resolution. This involves expressing yourself clearly, actively listening to others, and promoting understanding.
Encourage empathy by asking your colleagues to explain their perspectives on a problem. This helps prevent the conflict from escalating into a blame game and leaves room for compromising or collaborating on solutions.
Show that you’re willing to compromise or collaborate. Especially in smaller, trivial conflicts, it’s important to let go of your pride and your grip on the argument for the sake of a productive outcome.
5. Brainstorm Solutions
Once everyone involved has had a chance to discuss their side of the story, it’s time to identify possible solutions. Encourage employees to remain calm and open minded throughout this process.
Focus on the interests of each party and how those needs are not being met. This will help them find a solution that works for both sides.
Use the RACI Matrix to ensure that everyone understands their role and responsibilities in implementing the solution. This can be especially helpful for teams with complex problems.
6. Set Ground Rules
Use the Thomas-Kilmann model of conflict management to create an environment where everyone can express their viewpoint and participate in a solution process. Requiring respectful communication and active listening helps prevent a skewed perception of the situation.
Ask participants to keep their emotions in check and avoid fueling the arguments of other people in the room. Show a willingness to compromise or collaborate and prioritize resolving the issue over being right. Then brainstorm ideas for a solution that benefits everyone.
7. Encourage Confidentiality
Ensure that everyone involved in the conflict feels safe sharing their thoughts and opinions. This helps the discussion stay productive, but also allows the re-establishment of relationships after the conflict has been resolved.
Managers need to be able to assess the conflict, identify underlying issues and collaboratively develop solutions for the problem. This requires effective problem-solving skills, such as active listening and brainstorming. It also involves a commitment to fostering superior company culture by encouraging respectful communication and collaboration.
8. Be Proactive
It’s impossible to prevent every disagreement, but a proactive approach to conflict resolution can significantly reduce the number of escalations. By making expectations clear, promoting open dialogue and finding solutions that address the root causes of a dispute, you can keep disagreements from becoming full-blown conflicts.
Seek to understand others’ viewpoints before explaining your own. This will help everyone involved in the discussion come to a consensus about the problem and find common ground for moving forward.