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Resolving Workplace Conflict

Updated: May 8


Author: Tina Kos

Publication date: 07.05.2024


In any setting where people come together to live, work, and collaborate, conflicts are inevitable due to the diversity of backgrounds, personalities, opinions, and lifestyles among individuals. Conflicts can not be prevented completely, but we can resolve and manage them effectively. Using appropriate strategies to address issues, can keep differences from getting out of hand.


How conflict shows up in a workplace


Conflict frequently arises from our impulses and is fueled by fears, assumptions, and miscommunication, all influenced by our previous experiences. Conflict manifests itself across a wide spectrum, some common ways we see it projected in the workplace include:

  • Difference in point of view or difference in opinion – both parties aim for their standpoint to come out on top.

  • Conflicting priorities — what seems pressing to one party might not hold the same urgency for the other.

  • Unclear expectations — one party wasn’t aware the other preferred a certain situation to be handled differently.

  • Perceived unfairness — the manager consistently shows favoritism towards one party, leading to their advantage in receiving challenging tasks.

  • Political and social discord — one party couldn't collaborate with the other that doesn’t hold the same belief.



How to manage and resolve conflict


Settling disagreements requires effective communication, strong listening abilities, and an understanding of the underlying issue, alongside other contributing factors.

 

1.     Acknowledgement of the problem: Ignoring a problem in hopes it disappears exacerbates the issue. The optimal approach is acknowledging its existence, confronting it directly, and dedicating to seeking solutions.


2.     Gathering of initial information: Allocate sufficient time for thorough investigation of the case. Refrain from forming premature judgments or reaching final conclusions until all relevant information is gathered.


3.     Clarifying the source of the conflict: Identifying the root cause provides crucial insights into the precise dynamics of the situation, free from any assumptions.


4.     Have a private meeting: Prior to addressing any issue, ensure to establish a safe, private, and neutral environment for discussion, enabling all involved parties to engage in an open and candid dialogue without reservation. If needed, establish clear ground rules. Ensure that enough time is provided for each side to articulate their perspectives and emotions regarding the matter.


5.     Evaluation of progress:  Avoid assuming that an issue is completely resolved once a plan is in place. Maintain to keep an eye over the matter and evaluate the effectiveness of the solution. Schedule follow-up meetings as needed to monitor progress and make adjustments accordingly.



Positive conflict in the workplace


Positive conflict doesn't imply that the conflict itself was desirable, but rather that its occurrence resulted in something advantageous. Positive conflict is constructive, generating new ideas, resolving ongoing issues, offering opportunities for individuals and teams to enhance their abilities, and nurturing creativity. Advantages of positive conflict in the workplace can be:


  • Increased creativity and innovation: Positive conflict has the potential to spark creative thinking and promote innovation. Through constructive debates and discussions involving individuals with varied perspectives and ideas, new and innovative solutions to problems or challenges can emerge.

  • Enhanced decision-making: Conflict can contribute to improved decision-making processes. By fostering diverse opinions and promoting constructive debate, teams can explore a broader spectrum of options and perspectives, leading to more comprehensive and effective decisions.

  • Enhanced team cohesion: Positive conflict can bolster relationships and teamwork within a group. Handling conflicts in a respectful and constructive manner fosters trust among team members, ultimately strengthening bonds and promoting collaboration.

  • Organizational learning: Positive conflict can be a catalyst for organizational learning and enhancement. Through effective conflict resolution, organizations can pinpoint underlying issues, recognize areas for improvement, and address systemic challenges, leading to continuous growth and development.


Conclusion


In conclusion, in any workplace conflicts are inevitable, but they can be managed and resolved effectively with the right strategies. By acknowledging problems, gathering information, clarifying root causes, and facilitating open dialogue in a safe environment, teams can address conflicts constructively. Embracing positive conflict not only fosters creativity, innovation, and better decision-making but also strengthens team cohesion and contributes to organizational learning and improvement, ultimately leading to a more productive and harmonious work environment.


 

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