Conflict is an inevitable part of the workplace experience. Despite people’s best efforts to avoid conflict situations, at some point a conflict situation comes out and must be addressed. When this happens, people have to decide whether or not they will move forward with a resolution strategy, or whether they will simply live with the issue. The reality of life is that people live with differences of opinion on a daily basis. However, some issues are too big to let go, which is why people have to sit down and work towards some sort of amicable resolution. Here are a few strategies for dealing with conflict in the workplace.
The first thing people must do with conflict resolution is identify the issue. This can sometimes be complex because there may be many facets to the situation. Oftentimes people have to weigh whether or not to be totally honest with the person as some information may be particularly hurtful if verbally stated. This is often where a supervisor must step in and facilitate a situation.
This leads to a situation of discussion, which is often required to identify the particulars of the situation. What supervisors have to remember is that some people are not always comfortable talking with others, which can lead to them hiding their true feelings. Therefore, some supervisors may need to interview people individually before putting them in a situation where they have to “face off.”
Personal versus professional
One thing that supervisors and other facilitators have to determine is how much of the issue is personal and how much of it is professional. Sometimes people have conflict because of differences in professional opinion. Other times they simply do not like the other person. Usually it is some combination of the two factors. Granted, people will not always state their true feelings, so people engaging in conflict resolution may have to use some deductive reasoning to figure out the depth of the conflict.
Sometimes resolution requires a third party to come in and facilitate the conflict. This is particularly true when a supervisor has conflict with their employees. Or, it may be helpful for a “neutral” third party to be the one who negotiates between the conflicting parties. A “fresh” perspective can sometimes be helpful to the situation, particularly if they do not have any personal investment.
Once dialogue has commenced, people have to work towards a resolution strategy. Talking is good, but ultimately they have to agree on a next step. Sometimes this may involve re-assignment, changing positions, or limiting interactions. Other times a supervisor might have to tell people that they just have to deal with life as it is, particularly if changes in the work environment are not really available. It may also be valuable to put a resolution strategy down on paper and get all parties to sign it.
Any strategy of conflict resolution requires follow-up. Dialogue is good, and a resolution plan is helpful. However, the conflict must be revisited at a later date in order to assess if progress has been made. Conflict still involves people, and a resolution plan won’t necessary force people to get along. Resolution of conflict takes time, as well as effort and attitude. Otherwise, people may simply resolve to tolerate each other.