5 Strategies to Resolve Conflict in the Workplace (2019 Update)
Learn the basic steps you can use to smooth over conflicts in the workplace and how these steps can improve workplace relations moving forward.
You and your workmate, Adam, have been on great terms since he recently started working with you. You oversee his operations and occasionally guide him in the right direction. However, Adam is often slow in finishing his tasks but you don’t mind as he has a nice personality. However, you gave Adam an important task to finish on Friday afternoon. You had faith that he would finish the task. By the end of Friday, you find out Adam finished only part of it. He wasn’t aware he needed to finish the entire task by the end of the day. The following Monday, your boss reprimands you for the incomplete work. You’re frustrated to say the least and can see a conflict arising.
Workplace conflictEveryone in a workplace has encountered someone at work who may make things more difficult. Beyond differences in personality, different approaches to the tasks at hand can be a cause for real conflict in the workplace.Firstly, you should have a look at your workplace policy in dealing with conflict. If you are unsure, need an idea about what the policy should outline, or just need general guidance, we offer workplace policies bundles to help you deal with problematic employees.
What else can you do in this situation?
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. NegotiationCompromise 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. An example of such policies is available from our website.
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.