Building A Bridge To Resolve Conflict

Dealing with difficult people, most especially in the workplace, can be a challenge for most. It would take a person with high Emotional Intelligence to deal with the issues they have with these people rationally and to keep their emotions in check. Let’s take a look at how to deal with this conflict in your workplace.

The workplace can be identified as an employees’ second home as it is where they spend most of their time. Co workers are like family members with unique and significant roles to play to achieve the goal of the organisation. Like with most families, conflicts among co-workers are inevitable. Personality and individual biases make us all see the world through different lenses. However, similar to homes where conflicts abound and are not properly dealt with, an organisation that mishandles conflicts can become dysfunctional.

The dictionary defines conflict as: competitive or opposing action of incompatibles; antagonistic state or action (as of divergent ideas, interests, or persons).

Dr. Louise Douce, a psychologist and Special Assistant to the Vice President of Student Life at the Ohio State University states: “conflict in itself is not that bad at all. In fact, conflict can:

 Cause people to consider different ideas and alternatives.
• Result in increased participation and more commitment to the decisions and goals of the group.
• Result in issue clarification and / or reassessment.
• Help build cohesiveness as people learn more about each other.

However, conflict would become destructive if it:

• Leads to bullying, harassment, or discrimination.
• Diverts energy from more important issues and tasks.
• Polarises groups so that cooperation is reduced.
• Destroys the morale of people, or reinforces poor self-concepts.

Negative conflict in the workplace is like a disease! Concealed, avoided or otherwise ignored, it will likely fester only to grow into animosity, stress, burnout, create withdrawal and even cause division within an organisation.

The acronym ‘BRIDGES’ can serve as a guide in effectively handling conflicts, literally becoming a ‘bridge’ of peace in our workplace:

1. BIASES must be recognised.

Let’s admit it. We all have our own biases and those biases can interfere with our ability to see things objectively. Often times, most of us are unaware of such biases. We instead resort to “blaming blocked resolutions processes on party intransigence or self-interest” (Leigh Thompson and Janice Nadler ; Judgmental Biases in Conflict Resolution and How to Overcome Them). Acting to identify and counter cognitive biases makes for more effective conflict resolution.

2. RESPECT must be mutually established.

In resolving conflict, we must see the person whom we are having a conflict with as a unique individual. We are all endowed with lenses fitted to our individuality. Treat others with the same respect you want to be treated with. As the saying goes, “Respect begets respect.”

3. ISSUES must be sorted out according to importance.

C. JoyBell C. is the most frequently quoted author on Goodreads, is a leading female thinker and writer in our world today, and is a mentor to many modern-day leaders. I love what she writes about conflict:

“Choose your battles wisely. After all, life isn’t measured by how many times you stood up to fight. It’s not winning battles that makes you happy, but it’s how many times you turned away and chose to look into a better direction. Life is too short to spend it on warring. Fight only the most, most, most important ones, let the rest go.”

If confronting the issue causes more conflict, it may be best to let it go. However, if the issue is big enough to be a source of conflict, then it has to be dealt with immediately and we must nip it at the bud.

4. DIALOGUE must be pursued in resolving issues.

Dialogue is one the key components of peace building. According to the GPPAC Peace foundation, the goal of of any dialogue is to develop joint approaches to conflict resolution, as well as improve relationships, understanding, and trust between individuals or groups in conflict with one another. Dialogue processes consist of bringing together actors from across the conflict divide in order to develop an improved understanding of the concerns, interests, and needs of the other side.

Having a healthy dialogue will help participants seek a common ground to resolve their conflicts.

5. Seek GUIDANCE and wisdom

If you are not an expert in conflict resolution, it would be a big help to you and your organisation to seek the professional help and guidance of a coach or mentor who has an authority in this area. Conflict resolution is a key competency of Emotional Intelligence.

6. EMPHASISE reconciliation, not just a resolution.

There are instances in conflicts where resolutions are not yet possible. Reconciliation makes it possible for both parties to be civil with each other despite their differences. This preserves the relationship and removes the uneasiness and toxic emotional reactions.

7. SOW seeds of peace

Peace building and conflict resolution does not end in a dialogue. Conflict resolution takes more than that. Conflict Resolution requires hard work. Strive to live in unity with one another and always strive to seek common ground.

A bridge is designed to bring things together that would normally be apart and unreachable. I trust this acronym serves as a reminder for all of us.

With a desire to improve your environment at work, and some personal development in the area of Emotional Intelligence, you can have a harmonious workplace. I trust this article has helped you make that decision and now it’s up to you to take the next step.

Are you ready to improve your skills in peace making and conflict resolution? Do it with an expert. Contact us today to see how we can help.