5 Strategies to Resolve Conflict in the Workplace (2021 Update)
Learn the basic steps you can use to smooth over conflict in the workplace and how these steps can improve workplace relations moving forward.
Conflict in the workplaceMost people have encountered a professional situation where you clash with someone in the workplace. Whether this be a manager, coworker or someone you manage, unresolved conflicts lead to decreased productivity and workplace morale. Generally, workplace conflicts fit one of four types:
- Leadership conflict
- Conflict where doing your job is dependent on someone else doing theirs
- Personality differences
- Misalignment between an employee and the business’s broader vision
Leadership conflictLeadership conflict falls into one of two camps – a disagreement with your manager, or a disagreement based on the leadership style of someone you work with. Perhaps you share managerial responsibilities with a coworker, where each of you brings different skills and traits to the table.
Reliance conflictRelying on other people in fulfilment of your duties requires trust and open communication. However, this can easily break down if someone works differently to the way you do. Understanding the way that different people work is key, but so too is making sure that everyone in the team understands their responsibilities and how these fit into the bigger picture. Conflict of this type can be frustrating, which is why maintaining an open dialogue is key even when you disagree,
Personality clashesNot everyone in a workplace is going to gel well together, and this is something that can’t be avoided. However, in most cases personality differences are able to be put aside to unite for a common business goal. Maintaining a professional and courteous relationship with your colleagues is important, as is letting go of the personal stuff.
Company conflictNot every employee is going to subscribe to their employer’s values. Many people can put this aside, but problems can arise if this isn’t the case. If you’re an employee who is encountering conflict at the top-level, think about what needs to change about the institution to make your values align more closely to it. If it’s an issue that is unwilling or can’t be changed, then the best way of resolving this may be to find a new employer where your values do align. Whatever type of conflict you’ve encountered in the workplace, here’s how you can resolve it in a professional and productive way.
1. Set the sceneInvite the person you have a problem with to sit down. Calmly, communicate to the person that you wish to discuss this situation, with the aim of finding a solution, not just to point out the other person’s mistakes. It’s important to keep in mind here that you want to resolve the conflict, not vent your frustrations. Using language which talks about how something has affected you will come across better than directly saying the other person did something. Sometimes, it may help to have a third impartial party present, especially in cases where both parties are fairly upset.
2. Talk it outBoth parties need to take turns in candidly discussing and explaining their situation. It is important to ensure that this is not a continuation of the argument, the purpose of this talk is for the parties to be able to express their areas of discontent in regards to the opposite parties’ behaviour. Both parties should carry on a conversational, not an argumentative, tone. For example, in this particular scenario, you need to explain to Adam that his behaviour has impacted your work and that your personal relationship should not have affected the work you both produce. In turn, Adam may point out that he was unaware of the task’s importance. The key is to listen actively and acknowledge the other party’s comments without being defensive or reactive.
3. CollaborateWork together to decide what the best path forward is. It’s important to seek mutually advantageous gains for both parties. This step may involve accommodating and making concessions. The goal of it is to find some common ground that both parties can agree upon. In this scenario, both you and Adam can agree that there was a misunderstanding. Then you can both decide what the next step should be so that the misunderstanding does not occur again. For example, this may result in checking in more often on tasks or placing Adam on a performance management plan.
4. NegotiateCompromise based on giving concessions. It is an important step that has the potential of deterring future conflicts. It is key to ensure that both parties participate and agree to the negotiations. In our particular scenario, the solution would be for you to email Adam the deadlines for all his tasks so Adam knows when to finish. You could also use a project management software which allows you to set due dates for tasks and check in on how Adam’s going. Also, drawing boundaries between personal and professional relationships would be beneficial.
5. End on a good noteIt’s important for both parties to end the process with a feeling of resolution and positivity. It is important for the parties to either check in with each other, or have a third party check in with each of them, to ask if they feel heard and have had their needs met to some extent. Resolving workplace conflicts in the correct manner can lead the workplace to be more creative and responsive to clients. However, conflict resolution is not always easy. Sometimes, employees simply have a personality conflict that can interfere with their work. In such times, workplace policies can be effective in outlining actions that should be avoided by the employees.
Dominic is the CEO of Lawpath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.