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Dealing with Conflict in the Workplace: A Step By Step Guide, plus Infographic

conflict resolution infographic

CALM Conflict Resolution steps

Workplace conflict haunts organizations every day – it leads to lost productivity, diminished morale, and decreased performance. And, it is very expensive – it will have a negative effect on your organization’s bottom line through increased employee absenteeism, disappointing results, and poor customer service. If employees escalate their conflict to combat status, the entire organization is affected.

Typical reactions to conflict include ignoring it, complaining to others, and reacting without thinking. None of these produce effective results. Instead, we need to master a calm, respectful approach where both parties work together for a solution.

When interpersonal conflict between two people is left unaddressed, it will eventually affect the performance of others in the group. Waiting is an unproductive, reactive approach. Organizations need to promote a proactive approach to conflict management, equipping all employees with a method for resolving small conflicts and uncomfortable situations before they grow into something major. Many employees do not feel they have the responsibility to resolve conflicts – that solving problems between employees is a manager’s responsibility. But when employees are given a tool that helps them analyze, discuss, and resolve conflicts in a cooperative and respectful manner, everyone wins.

Because it provides employees with the skills to resolve most workplace conflicts on their own, the CALM model introduced in What to Do When Conflict Happens is an effective and practical way to help meet one of your organization’s most crucial goals: high performing teams in all departments.

CALM is a simple approach that helps move conflict from an emotional to a rational context where it becomes easier to resolve. The model includes four steps: Clarify the Issue, Address the Problem, Listen to the Other Side, and Manage Your Way to Resolution. See this infographic for a visual guide to the model (opens a PDF).

  • The first step, to Clarify the Issue, 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 desire as a resolution. There is a series of questions we need to ask ourselves before we address the other person, including What am I upset about?, Have I contributed to the problem?, and, If I was the other person, how would I want to be approached and dealt with?.
  • The next step is to Address the Problem. This involves planning and practicing our opening and issue description, and finding a time and place to have an open, two-way discussion with the other person involved.
  • Listening to the Other Side plays a vital role in successful conflict resolution. Verbal and non-verbal techniques need to be employed to make sure the other person is understood.
  • The last step in the model is Manage Your Way to Resolution. 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.

As important as it is for employees to learn to manage their own conflicts, some problems just won’t be able to be solved between the two parties; at that point, management needs to become involved. The What To Do When Conflict Happens facilitator’s guide includes a Leadership Module with special learning points and activities for managers so that they know how to be effective in these situations.

For more information about the C.A.L.M conflict resolution method and the training video program which features it, see the What To Do When Conflict Happens video page.


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