Resolving Conflict In The WorkplaceWith so many ways for people to be different, it is hardly surprising that there is conflict in any situation especially in the workplace. In fact it is just another part of life that we need to deal with.
For a manager it is essential to understand the effect it may have on the rest of the team and the level of productivity. Best practice indicates that being aware of potential conflict and then dealing with it early on often prevents it becoming a much more destructive situation later.
Here are seven steps to follow to help resolve conflict in your organisation.
1. Gain Commitment
This is important because without commitment from both parties to resolving the issue, nothing will change. In order for this to happen ensure that you have set enough time aside to bring the people involved together to discuss the issue. At this stage it is also vital for you to go in with an open mind as to what has happened. Sometimes things are not what they appear from the outside. It is your role to be neutral and to find out the facts.
2. Identify & Define The Problem
There are occasions when just clarifying the issue can clear up any misunderstanding and therefore the conflict. You may want to speak to each person separately before bringing them together so that you can gain both points of view. Otherwise you may start an argument just be discussing it! When you do bring the two team members together, it is also recommended that you write down what each view is. This helps to crystallise the problem and make it totally clear. Once this has been achieved it provides a platform for the next stage.
3. Generate Alternative Solutions
Too often people jump straight in with a solution without exploring a range of options. By considering a variety of alternatives it encourages the possibility of a solution that nobody had considered previously. At this stage it is good to enable both colleagues to take turns in generating ideas. Remember to give them enough time and encouragement to think. Using silence can be very effective in this case as the awkwardness of the silence often makes people engage in the process.
4. Evaluate The Options
Once enough ideas have been generated it is time to evaluate the merits of each one. Walk through the options one by one to see how practical the solution is. Ask those involved to come up with advantages and disadvantages so that they can come to a joint decision.
5. Agree The Way Forward
Ideally just going through this process step by step will help the individuals to realise what has happened and whether it really is worth arguing about. Stress to them that work can be hard enough without conflict and that generally most people want to be able to get on with their work. It may be that there needs to be some changes in the way the team works and perhaps the team members can work together to make it happen. Team members need a common goal to work towards and this can generate better team bonding and collaboration. At this stage it is essential that a solution is not pushed on them.
6. Put It Into Action
In order to keep up the momentum you will need to agree how the solution will be implemented. Setting specific actions and timescales that everybody agrees will help to secure commitment to the action. Where possible record these at the time and ask both of them to sign to confirm their agreement.
7. Follow Up
When agreeing the actions you should build in a date for following up with them. Again allow sufficient time to do this properly to demonstrate how much importance you give to making it work in the future. You will also need to observe behaviours from both parties to watch out for any residual ill feeling.
I hope you will find this process useful and a structure for confronting conflict in the future. Remember to deal with it as soon as you become aware of it. Bringing conflict to the fore can actually help teams deal with it better next time. It also helps people learn how their own actions might be affecting others.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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