Conflict is natural and occurs in many different environments. In the workplace, conflict can feel extremely stressful, but there are plenty of ways to work through it to get back to a happy, healthy office!
Conflict is natural, but it’s never pleasant. In the workplace, it can feel even more unpleasant because everything needs to be handled professionally. Whatever the cause of the conflict is, it can be resolved responsibly and respectfully!
Causes of Conflict
Conflict can occur for a variety of reasons. For instance, if you and a coworker have different points of view about a topic, you may get into a disagreement. Many instances of workplace conflict occur from individuals having different communication styles that might not always align. A few other reasons include:
- Coworkers are depending on one another to “get the job done” which can lead to stress and tension.
- There are established expectations of one another that might not be communicated and therefore not met.
- You and your coworkers might just be spending too much time together, creating stress and tension over something that otherwise might have been insignificant.
Methods of Resolving Conflict
There are 5 main ways of resolving conflict, and often managers need to use multiple methods to reach a resolution.
The competing method involves handling the conflict through one-sided decision-making. This method is used primarily in situations that need quick action, instances where there is no room for compromise or debate, and situations that require the need for hard or unpopular decisions. This method is very assertive, and usually, one person's goals are put over others. An example of this method in action is if you are deciding which child should get a green lollipop and which should get the cherry.
The collaborating method involves handling the conflict through input from your peers. This technique is useful if all parties in the conflict want to find a resolution but are unable to agree on what the specific resolution should be. Like the name says, this method is built on collaborating with coworkers to gain support and learn from different perspectives. This method also can help to improve relationships that may have been hurt due to the conflict.
The compromising method handles conflict by reaching a resolution that involves a “win” for each member of the conflict. This method is used to resolve issues of moderate to high importance, and to find a solution that involves equal power and commitment on both sides. The compromising method is best for situations that need a temporary fix or to back up a decision that was made using the competing or collaboration methods.
The avoiding method is a way of handling conflict by making an active decision not to handle the conflict. This approach is best used for situations that are not related to work and that should be solved through another means. This method also can buy time until a resolution is reached. The issues that come up due to avoiding a conflict can be thought of as symptoms of avoidance.
The accommodating method is a way of handling conflict by allowing the other side to “win”. This method is used to maintain perspective in a conflict situation and can help to make active decisions on what can be “let go” vs. what needs to be handled with another method of conflict resolution. This method can be seen often in retail settings when employees recognize that the customer is always right.
The Conflict Resolution Process
There are 6 steps in the conflict resolution process that should be completed by all parties in the conflict together.
1. Clarify the disagreement: The goal of this step is to get both sides to understand exactly what the disagreement is about. Clarifying involves getting to the heart of the conflict.
2. Establish a common goal: In this step of the process, both sides agree on the desired outcome of the conflict. This outcome could be as simple as, “both sides want this conflict to end”.
3. Discuss ways to meet the common goal: Both sides should work together to discuss ways that they can meet the common goal agreed on. Everyone should brainstorm different approaches to meet the goal.
4. Determine the barriers to reaching the common goal: The two parties should acknowledge what has brought them into the conflict. Define what can and cannot be changed about the situation and different ways of getting around the things that can’t be changed.
5. Agree on the best way to resolve the conflict: Both parties conclude the best resolution or a solution that both sides of the conflict can live with. Parties should also discuss the responsibilities of each party in maintaining the solution and ensuring that the conflict does not occur again.
6. Agree on the solution and determine responsibilities: Both sides own their responsibility in the resolution of the conflict and express aloud what they have agreed to. Ask both parties to use phrases such as “I agree to…” and “I acknowledge that I have responsibility for…”
Once completed by all parties, individuals on both sides of the conflict can walk away knowing they worked to resolve the conflict to the best of their abilities. These steps can help get everyone on the same page to collaborate and resolve any issues relating to the conflict. This can also help to initiate a compromise of some sort, to make everyone feel as though they were heard.
Conflict can’t be avoided, but it can be resolved effectively and efficiently by following these tips and tricks.
If you want to learn more about career readiness and dealing with conflict in the workplace check out our signature Career Readiness Program, uLaunch. uLaunch is a done-in-a-day career readiness curriculum, specifically curated for high schoolers. There are over 29 courses about interviewing, resume writing, soft skills, and more. The content for this blog was specifically gathered from our course on Resolving Conflict. Sign up for a uLaunch workshop today to help build these skills for yourself and your organization by filling out your information on our Contact page and a representative will reach out to you with more information!
- Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument
- Conflict Resolution Skills for HR Professionals by Marla Bradley