How to Resolve a Workplace Conflict: 5 Essential Strategies for Effective Resolution

How to Resolve a Workplace Conflict: 5 Strategies to Use

Workplace conflicts can be difficult to navigate. Whether you’re an employee dealing with conflict, or an employer trying to minimise the conflict, workplace conflict must be addressed to maintain a positive work environment. This is because unresolved conflict can lead to decreased productivity, low morale and even costly legal battles. 

Fortunately, there are strategies that you can use to resolve conflicts and create a more peaceful workplace. In this article, we’ll discuss how to resolve a workplace conflict using five  effective strategies and what the seven main types of workplace conflict are.

Read along!

Table of Contents

What are the seven types of workplace conflict?

Most people have encountered a professional situation where they clash with someone in the workplace. Whether this is 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
  • A conflict where doing your job is dependent on someone else doing theirs
  • Personality differences
  • Misalignment between an employee and the business’s broader vision
  • Task-based conflict 
  • Creative conflict 
  • Work style conflict 

Leadership Conflict

Generally, leadership conflict refers to a disagreement or a clash between individuals in leadership positions in the same organisation. Leadership conflict can be divided into two categories:

  • A disagreement with your manager over how they lead
  • A disagreement that’s based on the leadership style of someone you work with. For example, you share managerial responsibilities with a coworker, and there is a conflict caused by differences in opinions, values, goals, or personal styles. 

Reliance conflict

Generally, reliance conflict in the workplace occurs when one team member depends heavily on another for completing tasks or making decisions. Relying on other people in the fulfilment of your duties requires trust and open communication. However, this can easily break down if someone works differently from the way you do.

Furthermore, in these situations, the team member who is being relied upon holds more power and control over the outcome of the work, which may cause the other team member to feel inadequate or resentful. 

To minimise reliance conflict, it is important to establish clear roles and responsibilities, encourage open communication, understand the different ways people work and provide necessary training and resources for all team members to feel empowered in their work.

Conflict of this type can be frustrating, which is why maintaining an open dialogue is key even when you disagree.

Personality clashes

Personality clash workplace conflict occurs when two or more individuals have different personality traits that make it difficult for them to work together effectively. This type of conflict can arise from differences in values, beliefs, or attitudes, as well as from misunderstandings or miscommunications. Not 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 can be put aside to unite for a common business goal. Maintaining a professional and courteous relationship with your colleagues is important, along with letting go of personal matters.

Company conflict

Not every employee is going to be committed to their company’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 with 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.

Task-based conflict

Task-based conflict refers to workplace conflict resulting from differences in opinions, goals, or priorities related to the task or project at hand. This conflict can result from differing ideas on how to approach a task, conflicting objectives between team members, or misunderstandings about the task requirements. Task-based conflict can have negative effects on the workplace if left unresolved, such as decreased productivity.

Furthermore, task-based conflict can escalate into personal conflicts that damage relationships between team members and create a hostile work environment. This can also lead to a lack of trust between team members, which can hinder collaboration and team effectiveness. In addition, task-based conflict can lead to missed deadlines and subpar work quality if team members are not aligned on project goals or working towards the same objectives.

As an employer, you can address task-based by promoting open communication between your team, clarifying roles and responsibilities, and encouraging team members to work together to identify and resolve any differences in opinions or objectives. This method can improve team collaboration by creating a more positive work environment where everyone feels heard and valued.

Creative conflict 

Creative conflict in the workplace refers to a form of disagreement or difference of opinion among colleagues regarding creative ideas, concepts, strategies, perspectives or approaches to solving problems in relation to a task or project. 

When creative conflict is left unresolved, it can turn into a negative situation that can harm the team’s productivity and unity. This happens when the conflict becomes personal or unproductive, and the focus shifts from finding the best solution to proving one’s point or undermining others. 

It’s crucial to recognise the signs of negative conflict and take steps to address them before they cause lasting damage. As an employer, you should encourage mutual respect among your employees and encourage them to actively listen and provide feedback to one another in a respectful manner. This approach will enable team members to consider different viewpoints and evaluate ideas objectively, leading to the selection of the most effective solutions for projects.

Work style conflict 

Work style conflict occurs when employees have different approaches to how they work. Differences in approaches to work can lead to disagreements and workplace tension. Work style conflicts can relate to differences in individual work habits, communication styles, or attitudes toward teamwork.

For example, while some employees prefer working independently at their own pace, utilising their unique knowledge and skills and taking ownership. In contrast, there are other employees who thrive in team settings, offering opinions and working collaboratively. There could potentially between conflict between these two types of employees.

Furthermore, there may be clashes between employees in relation to the pace work is being completed. For example, certain employees may prefer to complete their work well in advance of deadlines, while others wait until the last minute. In this instance, it is likely that the employee who likes to complete tasks in advance would get frustrated by their colleague who leaves tasks for the last minute.

As an employer, you should be aware of the different work styles that your employees have so that you can make all your employees aware of the different working styles their colleagues have. Furthermore, you should motivate your employees to accept each other’s working styles and cooperate in order for the task to succeed.

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Five strategies you can use to resolve a workplace conflict

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 scene

Firstly, invite the person you’re having conflict with you to sit down with you. The next step is to calmly let the person know that you would like to discuss this situation and that the aim of the discussion is to find a solution for the conflict instead of pointing out each other’s mistakes. During this process, it’s crucial 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 an impartial third party present, especially in cases where both parties are fairly upset.

2. Talk it out

Secondly, both 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 conflict. The purpose of this talk is for both parties to be able to express their areas of concern in regard to the opposite parties’ behaviour. It is important that both parties maintain a conversational tone instead of an argumentative one.

An example of workplace conflict could be a disagreement between two team members on how to approach a project. One team member may believe that a more traditional approach is necessary, while the other may want to try a more innovative approach. This disagreement could lead to tension and a delay in progress.

To resolve the conflict, the team leader could encourage both team members to share their perspectives and actively listen to each other. The leader could also propose a compromise that incorporates elements of both approaches. If necessary, the team could bring in a mediator or third party to help facilitate a resolution.

Ultimately, the team should work towards finding a solution that everyone is comfortable with and that aligns with the overall goals of the project. By addressing the conflict in a respectful and constructive manner, the team can not only resolve the immediate issue but also strengthen their working relationships and communication skills for future projects.

3. Collaborate

Working 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 some scenarios, workers who are in conflict can agree that there was a misunderstanding between them. Then the workers 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 a worker on a performance management plan. 

4. Negotiate

Compromise based on giving concessions. It is an important step that has the potential to deter future conflicts. It is key to ensure that both parties participate and agree to the negotiations. In a situation where there is a conflict between workers due to incomplete work, a solution for this issue would be that a worker’s manager could email the deadlines for all the tasks that require completion so that their worker knows when to have the tasks completed. 

Furthermore, a worker’s manager could also use project management software which allows for them to set due dates for tasks and check in on how their employee going. Also, drawing boundaries between personal and professional relationships would be beneficial.

5. End on a good note

It’s important for both parties to end the process with a feeling of resolution and positivity. Furthermore, it’s 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.

Conclusion 

In conclusion, workplace conflicts can have serious consequences if not handled properly. In order to maintain a positive and productive work environment, it’s important to address conflicts and resolve them effectively. The strategies discussed in this article can all be used to help resolve workplace conflicts.

However, if the conflict is still unresolved using these strategies, you should hire a lawyer. A lawyer can provide additional guidance and support to ensure a positive outcome for the workplace conflict. Furthermore, if you’re an individual who’s directly involved in the conflict, a lawyer can also provide you with legal guidance in regard to your rights and responsibilities under employment law.

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