Dealing with conflict in the workplace can cost employees and managers time, productivity, and emotional stress. Having organization-wide conflict resolution steps in place, however, will help everyone know how to tackle conflict constructively, instead of avoiding it or letting it get out of hand. Below are 4 conflict resolution steps that are essential to anyone’s conflict management “toolkit.”
- Get clarity on the conflict. This first step is the most important since most of us do not take the time to back off and analyze why the conflict occurred and what we are looking for as a resolution. This step involves taking some time by yourself, before you address the other person, to ask some questions. This helps you avoid an unplanned, “knee-jerk” reaction to the conflict and the questions help you to get clarity on what’s going on, what you feel, what you ultimately want from this situation, and what you think the other person might want. Once you’ve made your way through these self-reflective questions, you’ll have a clearer picture of how to proceed – is it really a non-issue that you can let go of, or is it a legitimate problem that needs to be resolved?
- Talk to the other person. This seems like an obvious step, but many people will try to take a shortcut and just email (or text, etc.) the other person! When trying to work through a conflict, having the discussion in person is always best (or by phone if you’re geographically separated). Talking to the other person involves practicing our opening statement and issue description ahead of time, and then finding the time and place to have an open, two-way discussion with the other person. It’s critical to open the conversation with a statement that encourages collaboration (and not defensiveness). And, when describing the issue to the other person, make sure you include exactly what happened, how it made you feel, and the negative impacts the situation has caused.
- The third conflict resolution step is to listen to the other side. Once you’ve stated your side of the problem, you have to listen to the other person air their views and concerns. It’s the only way to understand their point of view. It will likely be uncomfortable, but it’s important that you never interrupt, that you give them your full attention, use positive body language (no crossing your arms or frowning), and paraphrase what you’ve heard to make sure you understand their point of view.
- Once both parties have aired their concerns, the last of these steps to conflict resolution is to work towards a solution. This step involves gaining agreement about the nature of the conflict, as well as the steps to be taken by both parties to resolve it. You should start by gaining agreement from the other person that there is a problem, and then make sure that you’ve both aired your concerns. Then it’s time to explore win-win solutions. Resolving conflict means finding a solution that does something for both participants, so be ready to communicate openly about the options. Lastly, plan a course of action based on the solution you’ve both agreed upon.
When conflict occurs, you never really know where the other person is coming from. You don’t know what might be happening behind the scenes for them, or what they are thinking. The most effective way to find out, and to resolve the situation, is to use these 4 steps to conflict resolution to help you and the other party find a fair solution you can both live with.
For a proven, bestselling training video that teaches effective steps to conflict resolution, check out What To Do When Conflict Happens. This program presents a practical and easy-to-use 4-step approach to managing conflict that helps individuals collect their thoughts and initiate resolution in the most productive way possible.