No matter the industry or the type of workplace you have, conflicts will invariably arise from time to time. In most cases, these conflicts won’t interrupt the workflow, and individuals will be able to resolve their differences and maintain productivity. But what do you do when things start to escalate and you need conflict resolution in the workplace?
When a conflict becomes a significant problem, you have to have a conflict management system in place to handle it. Fortunately, there are many options available for conflict resolution strategies in the workplace. Let’s discuss the top 9 and how they can work for your business.
Top 9 Conflict Resolution Strategies for the Workplace
If the conflict risks escalation, you should have a mediator talk to each party to discuss what happened and see if there’s an amicable solution.
In many cases, conflicts can occur because of miscommunications, misunderstandings, or even external forces outside of the workplace.
Mediation works because it allows both parties to air their grievances with an objective third party. The goal of mediation is to find a viable solution, but sometimes, the mediation itself can be enough to resolve the conflict. In some cases, individuals may just want their voices to be heard, so having a mediator can alleviate the problem.
Depending on the workplace, not everyone has to work together at all times. If a conflict doesn’t have a clear resolution, the best option may be to keep the involved parties separated, either for an extended period or permanently.
Avoidance isn’t often the “best” solution because it could lead to resentment and future conflicts if both individuals have to work together again. However, it can be a decent interim solution until a long-term fix can be developed.
Remember co-workers don’t have to be friends. What matters is that they can conduct themselves professionally, and sometimes, avoidance is the simplest solution.
Most conflict resolution strategies for the workplace involve some kind of compromise. Ideally, both parties can yield some control of the situation to accommodate the other. When developing a compromise, it’s critical that everyone agrees to the solution and is willing to make it work.
Overall, you can’t force someone to compromise, and if you do, it will only lead to more problems in the future. The details of each situation will vary, but the goal is to ensure that everyone involved is satisfied with the conclusion.
When developing a compromise between parties, it’s imperative to start with common ground and build incrementally from there. Ideally, the goal isn’t to resolve the conflict as quickly as possible but rather to find a suitable long-term solution for everyone involved. Also, you must recognize that true resolution may take time to be effective, and you might have to adjust the terms of the compromise multiple times before it becomes stable.
While an agreement may seem identical to a compromise, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an amicable situation. Agreements can be verbal or in writing, depending on the situation.
In this case, the solution is to have both parties agree to terms that may or may not be beneficial to each individual. Sometimes, the objective is to make the workplace more productive and maintain morale.
Developing an agreement may take time and arbitration, and if it’s in writing, it’s easier to hold each party accountable. However, if the conflict isn’t too serious, a verbal agreement may be enough to avoid future incidents.
5) Counseling or Training
Sometimes, conflict can be a result of unprofessionalism or one’s inability to separate their personal self from their professional self. In these cases, training or counseling might be the best solution because it allows the individual to grow and develop themselves internally so as to avoid conflict with others.
Because counseling or training is an ongoing process, it’s often reserved for high-value employees that the company wants to retain long-term. However, you can also offer group sessions so everyone can benefit from the growth and development strategy.
Overall, training should be part of an overarching conflict resolution management strategy within the company. So, managers, supervisors, and even some top-level employees can benefit from formal training. As long as you maintain these sessions annually (or semi-annually), your executive team may be able to resolve conflicts before they erupt into any altercations, either verbal or physical (or both).
Fortunately, Resolve offers comprehensive conflict resolution training for companies of all shapes and sizes. Even if you’re unsure what it will take to build a conflict management system, we can help you with every step. This way, you can be more proactive instead of reactive.
6) Peer-to-Peer Mediation
Sometimes, having a manager or supervisor mediate the conflict can add extra pressure or stress to the situation. In these cases, it may be best to enlist the help of an objective third-party individual, either within or outside the department. Some workers feel more open to discussing problems with their peers, especially if they’re worried about retribution or retaliation.
In this instance, you may have to tread softly with everyone involved. If the third-party employee is not licensed or trained in conflict resolution, you might have to give them a crash course in the steps required. Also, individuals may have to sign NDAs to avoid potential future conflicts or gossip around the office. Finally, if an employee shares sensitive information with a peer, you have to consider whether exposing those details to a superior would negate the purpose of peer-to-peer mediation. Otherwise, what incentive does the involved party have to talk openly with another co-worker about the incident?
When it comes to conflict, most people view themselves as the victim and not the aggressor. However, self-assessment exercises can be helpful in that they enable workers to step outside of their mindset and view the situation from another perspective. The primary goal of a self-assessment exercise during conflict resolution is to share each perspective with the other party.
Another advantage of conducting self-assessments is that they can give you valuable insight into each person’s thought process. It can be hard to understand what triggered a confrontation when you’re looking at the situation from the outside. So, getting a window into how they felt during the incident and how they felt afterward can help you determine the best course of action. These assessments may also provide you with alternative resolution strategies that may not have been apparent at first.
8) Executive Reviews
Ideally, you can resolve a workplace conflict in a way that allows both parties to continue working for the company. However, depending on the situation, that may not always be possible. Executive reviews are often necessary for incidents that can bring about legal situations, such as instances of discrimination or harassment.
During an executive review, it’s imperative that everyone stays as impartial and objective as possible. If someone’s job is on the line, you want to make sure you pursue all potential resolution options before making any final decisions. Also, in some cases, the review might have to get input from multiple executives to be finalized.
Typically, this option is designed as a “last resort,” not necessarily a first response. Ideally, you can use other conflict resolution methods and strategies before getting executives involved to make final decisions regarding the fate of those involved. However, if the incident does put the company in legal hot water, you may not have much of a choice in the matter.
9) Virtual Counseling
These days, fewer workers are spending time in the office in favor of remote workplace setups. However, conflicts can still arise among remote staff members, especially those who have to work together on projects and tasks. In this case, it would be difficult (if not impossible) to conduct an in-person mediation session. So, a virtual counseling session is necessary.
Virtual conflicts are unique for a couple of reasons. First, there’s almost always a record of what transpired, either in the form of video footage or text conversations. However, if those texts were part of a private thread between co-workers, the only way to access them is with the permission of one or both of the parties involved.
Another way that virtual conflicts are unique is that individuals don’t necessarily have to see or interact with each other immediately after the incident. In most cases, they can simply log off, cool down, and then discuss what happened with a manager or supervisor. In many cases, this distance can be advantageous, especially when it comes to preventing an escalating situation.
Overall, conflict resolution training is an essential part of the modern workplace. If you need help developing or implementing these strategies, schedule a consultation with us today!