The Five Steps to Resolving Workplace Conflict

two people shaking hands

The Law of win/win says: Let’s not do it your way or my way; let’s do it the best way.”  Greg Anderson 

Conflict is inevitable.

This is especially, most undoubtedly, true in the workplace.

This is because conflict usually occurs whenever two or more people interact over an extended period of time.

Although conflict is inevitable, unmanaged conflict can be detrimental to the workplace. When leaders allow conflict or disagreements to fester rather than properly manage them, the workplace can become a toxic environment. It can significantly disrupt your and your employees’ effectiveness and momentum, thus, preventing your organisation from achieving your goals. 

Take, for instance, the story of Steve.

A Story of Conflict Management Gone Wrong

Steve has been an executive manager in his organisation for ten years.

However, for the past nine years, Steve has not seen his organisation achieve its major goals. He, instead, has witnessed disengagement, turnover, gossip, unhealthy exchange of words and conflicts. 

Steve has tried dealing with this before. 

However, he dislikes confrontation.

He also does not know how to deal with conflict.

One time, his team was working on an urgent project for one of their VIP clients. As the days went by, the pressure to execute the project with excellence while not compromising the deadline suddenly took hold of the team. His team members suddenly had complaints and minor conflicts and brought up their complaints to him.

However, because Steve dislikes confrontation, he did not address their concerns. Because of Steve’s indifference, the conflict among his employees worsened.

As a result, the project started falling apart.

Some team members became disengaged: They came in late for work, stopped sharing their ideas and some even resigned.

The deadline of the project came.

However, the project was still not finished.

Steve is now at a loss.

Because of Steve’s lack of conflict management skills, he lost his team, a big project, a very important client, and his credibility.

Conflict Management: An Underrated but Must have skill for all leaders. 

A leader sets the workplace environment. Therefore, as leaders, it is important that you create an environment where conflict is managed and not ignored.

Some leaders are like Steve; they would prefer to avoid conflict to provide the image of harmony. They don't comprehend that by avoiding conflict, they unintentionally create silos and internal instability among their team. On the other hand, some leaders deal with conflict aggressively. When their team members are engaged in conflict, they resort to threats and dismissal. By doing this, they create an environment where conflict festers and grows. Therefore, as a leader, you are expected to neutralise or limit conflict rather than allow it to grow and spread.

To remedy the disrupting behaviour and create an environment where conflict is properly managed, leaders need to develop the competency of conflict management. Developing this competency will help you as a leader deal with and manage conflict properly and will set an example for your team members and direct reports. For change to happen, you must start with yourself first.

Here are some developmental tips to help you develop this competency:

• When in a heated debate or dispute, become self-aware at the moment and concentrate on the topics rather than personal things. "Remove individuals from the problem”

• Ask yourself, "What can I say or do to make this a more constructive conversation?”

• Don't ignore disagreement; it lingers (even festers) and must be addressed sooner or later, and sooner is better because it causes fewer bitter feelings. 

• Be open to new viewpoints and a broader range of alternatives and options; resist digging in your heels or erecting barriers.

• When negotiating, examine your goal; communicate your message in a way that does not engender antagonism and preserves the other person's dignity (no put-downs, no make-wrongs)

The Five Steps to Conflict Resolution

As you develop this competency, you may find yourself in a position where you are asked to mediate a disagreement or perhaps you are in a direct conflict with someone. Should you be in either of these positions, the five steps to conflict resolution from our CEO and Founder, Emotional Intelligence Master Coach and Trainer, Grant Herbert, will help you manage conflict healthily and constructively.

 Step 1. Set the scene.

As the leader, you are the one who sets the scene in your organisation. Set an environment that is conducive to conflict resolution. You can do this by cultivating an environment of openness, constructive criticism, and problem-solving. You want your team to realise that you are doing this because you are thinking about the future, not the past and that you are certain things will work out.

Setting the scene is discussing what you intend to do, how you intend to proceed and establishing some guidelines for acceptable behaviour as you work through and reach a resolution.

When you involve your team in the decision-making process, you will be able to set guidelines and establish resolutions that will suit everyone. So, it will not escalate whenever disagreement arises and can be dealt with logically.

So, the whole point of dispute resolution and negotiating a favourable outcome is to get everyone to agree on minor details along the road.

Step 2. Gather Information.

Having the right and complete information is crucial to a successful resolution.

Gathering information is crucial for conflict resolution as it is a logical process. This step aims to remove your feelings and biases and gather the facts. So what you can do is simply ask both parties a series of questions to figure out the problem. 

There are times when leaders try to resolve conflicts without gathering information. They gather both parties, tell them to stop their quarrel and get back to work. Although doing this might prevent the conflict for a while, it does not solve it at all - it will only be a bandaid solution. This instead makes disagreements fester and grow, resulting in more significant conflicts that will eventually cause any team to fall out.

Step 3. Agree On The Issue

Now that you have gathered information regarding the conflict, it is time for both parties to agree on the issue. To do this, you will help both parties determine probable areas of mutual agreement and conflict. This is the first step toward finding a solution and starts the process of agreement.

Step 4. Brainstorm Possible Solutions.

After both parties have figured out the problems and what they can do about them, help them come up with a list of possible solutions that will benefit everyone's goals, objectives, and motives.

Don't worry about how good they are just yet; your main goal is to develop new ideas. 

Encourage both parties to use questions like, "Would another solution be _____?” to express alternate opinions.

As the mediator, you must inform and ensure that both parties are ready to compromise. It would be best to tell them that you’re seeking a solution, not a win. 

Step 5. Negotiate and Act on the Solution.

After you have helped both parties develop a list of possible solutions, it is now time that you ask them what solution they agree on. After that, help them develop a plan for putting the solution into action.

Thank both parties for their willingness to participate in this process, and make it clear that you are willing to check on their progress.

Ronald Reagan said it best:

"Peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”

Managing conflict is one skill that makes up a good leader. Let us help you and your team develop the competency of conflict management and create an environment of growth and excellence in your organisation.

We Are Here to Help

At People Builders, we have a team of expert trainers and coaches who can help you in building you and your team’s Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
. Contact us today for a quick chat to see how we can partner with you to train and coach you and your team.

If you are interested in becoming certified to be a trainer and coach in Social and Emotional Intelligence, Applied Neuroscience, or Extended DISC, go to our People Builders Institute website.



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