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Effective Conflict Management

Updated: May 4

Two large brightly colored parrots sitting on a branch in an enclosure looking away from each other in opposite directions.

Conflict is inevitable when different viewpoints, ideas, and ideologies collide. However, conflict doesn’t have to be problematic, and especially not in the workplace. Besides the tangible costs of low productivity and failing projects due to poorly resolved or unresolved conflicts, PositivePsychology suggests that the personal costs in terms of emotional and psychological strain are an incalculable threat to well-being. In addition to the clear benefit of reducing the negative impacts of conflict, good conflict resolution skills show maturity and finesse, not to mention leadership. So without further ado, let’s talk about how to effectively resolve conflicts.

Understand the conflict:

In order to resolve a conflict, one must first have an understanding of where it came from.

When mediating a dispute between others, it is important to be able to empathize and understand each side’s goals, views, and concerns.

Understanding is no less important when you are involved in the conflict personally: in fact, it’s possibly more important to understand the stance of the other party and be able to clearly articulate your own perspective. In either case, this understanding is also valuable for understanding where the problem came from in the first place. Unsurprisingly, a great many conflicts at work arise from poor communication, and sometimes the effort to understand both sides can in-and-of-itself help resolve some of the confusion.

Approach both sides with respect:

One of the quickest ways to escalate a conflict is to disparage or dismiss one of the parties. This is especially easy to do when you are personally involved, since its easy to value your own opinion over those of others.

Another common type of workplace conflict is a personality clash, where the issue is less about communication and more about the dynamics of the participants.

In such cases, any treatment of one party that is perceived as unfair will likely not only fail to fix the issues, but further drive a wedge between the conflicting parties and foster an unhealthy workplace culture. Both sides deserve the chance to make their case and present their views in an unbiased manner, so pulling in a neutral mediator is a great way to help make sure this happens.

Be professional:

Conflict is like any other form of drama: highly contagious.

Therefore, it’s important to maintain a high level of professionalism in order to contain the situation. Where possible, interpersonal conflict should be handled privately, not only out of respect for the participants, but also to prevent either side from using the conflict as a soapbox, spreading the issue to more people in an attempt to gain support for their side. The goal is to eliminate tension and reach a productive solution; involving an opinionated mob will do just the opposite. In addition, displaying professionalism gives you credibility, which can make it easier to help prevent and resolve conflicts in the future.

Focus on the solution:

The conflict management process is not a place to air grievances, no matter how tempting that may be. The focus of meeting is to resolve the conflict by developing an actionable solution that works for everyone so that work can continue and the conflict does not reoccur.

Make sure that the common goal of both sides is the primary objective.

This is especially true in conflicts of ideology where both sides want to achieve a positive outcome but have different ways of getting there. Even in other types of conflicts, seek out a common ground for both parties and work towards it. Ensure that everyone involved in the conflict walks away agreeing on the plan to resolve it, or all you’ve done is create a bigger problem for another day.

At the end of the day, conflict resolution is a valuable but sometimes challenging skill to learn. However, if you can stay calm and follow some of these tips, you’re well on your way to a happier, more peaceful work life. After all, as Thomas Crum, respected author and presenter in the field of conflict resolution advises, “The quality of our lives depends not on whether or not we have conflicts, but on how we respond to them.”

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