What Is Conflict Resolution? Using This Practice At Work
Updated 22 November 2022
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Resolving conflict in the workplace is an important process that can help maintain a balanced and safe work environment. Determining how to resolve conflict takes effort to move everyone involved toward a shared solution. Learning how this process works can help you avoid and resolve conflicts at your job. In this article, we explain what is conflict resolution, share the steps you can take to mediate an issue and outline the skills you can use to solve conflicts while at work.
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What Is Conflict Resolution?
What is conflict resolution, can be described as the process of recognising and solving problems between two or more individuals or groups. These disagreements can come from various sources like differing opinions, work styles or ways of communicating. Sometimes coworkers misunderstand or misinterpret the words and actions of another team member, leading to conflict. This process seeks to lower tensions, bring both parties to an understanding and find a compromise. The next step is to move beyond the conflict to resolve the problem so all parties feel the conflict is over with satisfactory results.
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Why Is It Important To Mediate Conflict?
Using strategies to resolve conflict at work can help create a calm atmosphere where employees interact in a respectful and encouraging way. If a conflict occurs with an external source such as a customer, resolving the conflict also works to restore relationships between the affected parties. These strategies create an organised method for addressing conflict using fair and consistent steps. Identifying a conflict and working to solve the issue can help to reduce future problems and builds a stronger workplace environment.
Related: Guide: How To Become an Effective Communicator
5 Steps Of Conflict Resolution
Here are the main strategies you can use to complete the resolution process:
1. Define the conflict
The first step to mediating a conflict is listening to both parties discuss their point of view. Find a comfortable place to speak that is free from distractions. As you begin the process, give each participant a chance to talk without stopping for questions. Find out the needs of each party, and make it a goal to get all parties to agree on the source of the conflict. Try to encourage mutual understanding. Use this stage to gain as much information as possible to better serve all parties during the remainder of the process.
2. Determine a common goal
Once the affected parties have a chance to share their point of view, work to find a goal that resolves the conflict. Discuss the ways all parties can meet the chosen goal. Encourage each participant to determine how they can contribute to the resolution. It may be helpful to create a list of suggestions from all parties before choosing the best option. The discussion process can function as part of the mediation with everyone helping to create the solution.
3. Address concerns and potential barriers
Before agreeing to a final solution, determine any reservations or barriers to resolving the conflict. If one or more participants have concerns, this is the time to let them share. Give them the chance to voice their ideas in a safe and open way. This is also the time to identify the cause of the conflict and address how to overcome these issues as all parties work toward a common goal.
4. Agree on a solution
After everyone has voiced concerns and determined a clear path forward, verify the resolution. Acknowledge the common goal and ask each party to voice their agreement. Take time to identify the steps each party plans to contribute to resolve the conflict and create a solution that avoids any further problems. You may want to create a written document or contract that each participant can sign and keep with their personal files. This can also provide a tool to ensure each affected party understands and completes their part in resolving the conflict.
5. Revisit the solution and evaluate progress
Before ending the mediation, choose a time to meet again and discuss the results. Evaluate if the common goals are effective or if a new solution needs to be put into place. Communicate with all parties involved, allowing them to share their satisfaction with the outcome.
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Skills Used In Resolving Conflicts
These skills help you solve disagreements and determine a solution when speaking with affected parties:
Thinking and processing the ideas of others is a crucial part of resolving conflict. Active listening involves careful consideration of the speaker's words and attitude. Active listeners respond to the vocal tone and body language of others, allowing them to empathise and think carefully before responding to the other party.
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Mediating conflict requires unbiased listening and deliberation. Giving each affected party equal chances to share their concerns and point of view creates a more balanced opportunity to manage disagreements. The ability to act fairly also allows you to consider each participant before forming an opinion or determining a solution.
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The skill of empathy allows you to respond to others by understanding their emotions and unique perspective. Empathy is a key component of resolving conflict because it acknowledges the feelings of each party involved. This skill involves understanding the experience of others which can also be a valuable tool to approach conflict mediation.
Being candid means sharing your feelings and thoughts openly in an appropriate way. Balancing honest communication with empathy is an important factor to consider when speaking candidly to others. When you speak candidly, you can also inspire others to do the same which can encourage open communication in a mediation.
Using self-control is an important way to facilitate resolution. This skill gives you the ability to control negative emotions and choose to listen more than you speak. Showing self-control also encourages a calm atmosphere during a conflict resolving session.
The ability to solve problems combines other skills to help you find reasonable solutions to overcome challenges. Skills like resourcefulness and creativity shape your ability to find an answer to your problems. This skill also involves decision-making and analysis which can serve you well during the mediation of a conflict.
Effective communication can function as the main way to solve a conflict. Those skilled in both written and verbal communication help create a dialogue between affected parties in a mediation. They can also clearly articulate the main cause of the disagreement by listening to the accounts of all participants.
Related: Communication Skills For Managers: Definition And Examples
Tips For Solving And Mediating Conflicts
The ability to resolve conflict is helpful to any organisation. The ideas listed below can help you resolve most conflicts that arise in the workplace:
Stay calm and maintain open body language. Before you attempt to resolve a conflict, it can be helpful to take several deep, calming breaths while sitting with your shoulders back. Placing both feet on the floor with arms open at your side can also indicate an openness to listen as you mediate a disagreement.
Find a private, comfortable place to discuss the conflict. Find a place where you can work on the problem in private to encourage the affected parties to feel more at ease. Participants in the resolution need equal seating arrangements.
Work to understand the perspective of everyone involved. In most workplaces, conflicts arise because of misunderstandings. Taking the time to listen to and understand the experiences of your colleagues can make it easier to resolve a disagreement
Take note of what started the conflict. Determining the factors that led to conflict can help avoid future disagreements.
Identify opportunities for compromise. For most conflicts to be resolved, one or more parties require to agree on a compromise. Setting aside bias to look for areas where compromise is possible can help you arrive at a resolution.
Check in to make sure the agreement is lasting. Follow-through is important in resolving conflict. Set expectations by scheduling a check-in point within a few days or weeks to revisit how everyone is feeling and ensure that everyone is following the agreed-upon plan.
Involve HR or another third party if the conflict continues. There may be situations where one or more parties fail to cooperate, or the conflict escalates. In this situation, it is best to involve HR or higher-level leadership.
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