Resolving Conflicts at Work

conflictHeaded for a Conflict

If conflict does arise at work, then it probably should. Conflict is not necessarily a bad thing.

Conflict can be positive or negative, constructive or destructive. Conflict is not the same as open hostility (and its attendant verbal attacks and threatening gestures) or anger.

Avoiding conflict, however, will only make matters worse.

How is conflict defined?

Conflict exists when one person has a need of another and that need is not being met.Conflict Resolution

The participants at odds with each other need to engage in constructive conflict which is similar to the negotiation process during problem solving. Ultimately, the parties at odds have (or should have) the final responsibility to resolve the conflict.

Conflicts need to resolved in a step-by-step manner. The first steps are probably the hardest:

1. Express the need.
2. Find out if the need can or cannot be met.
• Yes, means the conflict is resolved. • No, means the conflict needs to be managed (If No, then go to Step 3. Management of Conflict)

The first steps are to always express the need and then determine if the need can be met. These steps are not always done, sometimes out of misplaced respect for the other person, sometimes out of fear of triggering a bad mood or some other reaction in that person.

Common mistakes in conflict resolution are to either totally avoid resolving the unmet need, or skipping the first steps and jumping directly into the management of the conflict.

More conflict is caused by walking away than standing and fighting and sorting it out.  Jeff Muir, Consultant

The third step is to resolve the unmet need. Start by communicating. Effective one-on-one communication techniques include:

  • Using facts, not opinions (make sure you know the facts).
  • Using “I” statements (“You” statements put people on the defensive).
  • Being direct and to the point (keep it in the here and now).
  • Being consistent (repeat the same message to everyone, every time).

Step 3. Conflict Resolution/Negotiation Checklist

  • Is there communication? Is active listening occurring?
  • Is there mutual respect in the relationship?
  • What are the underlying interests? Are they shared?
  • What are the best alternatives?
  • Have all the options been brainstormed?
  • Are there objective, legitimate criteria that are fair to all?
  • Is there sufficient time to commit? Can it be done?

Putting Conflict Resolution to the Supreme Test

Based on my experience, not everyone is open about their unmet needs. If dealing with members of the public or even business people for the first time, often they may not articulate their needs. This can lead to conflict.

Staff may delay passing on crucial information or try to filter it, if it is negative or will reflect badly on them. No news is good news.

Customers may be disappointed or less than satisfied and yet say nothing about their experiences. Then one day they simply disappear and the phone stops ringing.

The simple fact is, from time to time, everyone’s needs change. Employees seek new challenges, customers seek additional value. Business is never static.

The answer is good communication. The answer is always good communication.

But keep in mind, most communication is covert, not overt. The water is often muddy, signals get crossed, emails don’t arrive, and the message isn’t received. Effective communication takes effort and practice.

The supreme test of conflict resolution is to communicate at a level that conflict resolution is a natural byproduct of communication.

The Rules of the Business Game (in Resolving Conflicts)

Thank you for reading this.