Resolving workplace disputes can play an important role in improving the morale and productivity of a company. Understanding key concepts and strategies to find helpful solutions to disagreements or conflicts can help quickly resolve disputes and allow employees to develop important communication skills and collaboration techniques. In this article, we discuss conflict management is and its potential benefits along with eight helpful strategies for conflict management and resolution.
What are conflict management strategies?
Conflict management strategies are tools and techniques to help resolve disputes between colleagues. You might use these methods to improve communication between coworkers, develop strong working habits and increase productivity. Making use of sound conflict management strategies can help you create a positive working environment that encourages colleague collaboration.
Benefits of conflict management strategies
There are several benefits to using conflict management strategies, including:
Helping reach an agreement or compromise
Building professional relationships
Strategies for conflict management
Here are eight strategies you might use to help with conflict management:
1. Make use of the right environment
Whether you’re talking with a colleague at the office or remotely, such as through videoconferencing or a phone call, using the right environment can help create a neutral atmosphere for resolving conflict. A neutral atmosphere is important because it can allow the individual to feel relaxed and show them you’re hoping to find a resolution to the conflict. Try to find a time during working hours and a location with minimal distractions.
If you are talking with a coworker at work, consider meeting in a conference room or break room. If the conversation is online, silence your phone, remove any distractions and be sure your colleague has time to talk. This can allow you to focus all your attention on settling the conflict and improving your working relationship.
2. Work to find a compromise
The key to successful conflict management is finding a solution to the challenges or problems being presented through compromise. Reaching a mutually beneficial agreement can show others that you’re dedicated to resolving the conflict and improving the workplace.
If you’re having trouble solving the current dispute, consider offering a way you can contribute to the solution. For example, if your colleague is having trouble meeting deadlines but say there’s no way to finish the work more quickly, consider offering to help them with a few assignments. You might be able to find helpful tips or solutions to improve the efficiency of their workload.
3. Verbally summarize the conflict
Verbally summarizing the conflict may help your coworker better understand the grievance and how the situation has affected you or your work. This can help initiate a constructive conversation that could lead to a resolution.
For example, if you’re approaching a colleague about their inconsistent deadlines, consider starting the conversation with “Paul, I was hoping we could talk for a second about your late assignments. It can be difficult for the team to finish our work when we’re still waiting for your reports.”
Summarizing during a conflict management conversation can also let your colleague know that you’re listening to their opinions, challenges and feelings.
For example, if a coworker says they’ve been late with their recent assignments because their daughter has been ill, consider responding with “I’m sorry to hear your daughter hasn’t been feeling well. I know that can be rough. Is there a way we can find a compromise to give you extra time to finish your reports while still giving you time to help your daughter?”
4. Use “I” statements when discussing emotions
Using “I” statements can help create a neutral environment while showing your colleague how their actions might be affecting you or possibly the company overall. Talking about your feelings and emotions regarding the conflict allows your coworker to not feel attacked during the conversation and helps you both find a constructive solution to any present challenges.
For example, when discussing a colleague’s unannounced changes to a project’s goals or objectives, consider using a phrase such as, “I sometimes feel a little frustrated or anxious when the project’s plans are changed with no notification.”
5. Encourage open communication
Encouraging open communication during conflict management allows your colleague to feel they can voice their opinions and concerns. Allowing your coworker to express themselves during the conversation or asking for their viewpoint can help you reach a mutually beneficial compromise. A good way to accomplish this is by explaining the present conflict, voicing how it affects you and requesting your coworker’s opinion or view of the situation.
For example, if you’re frustrated with how a colleague dismisses some of your ideas, consider approaching the conflict like this, “Hi Ava, I’ve felt a little discouraged lately when you ignored some of my ideas. I was curious if there was a reason for that.”
6. Know when to take a break
During conflict management, it’s important to know when to take a break from the conversation to help both parties process ideas. Breaks can also help relieve any stress from the situation, think through what’s been said and come back to the conversation with a renewed perspective.
If you notice that voices are becoming more aggressive or harsh in their tone, consider politely suggesting that everyone take a break and return to resolving the conflict after having time to think about points that were mentioned.
When asking for a break during conflict management, it can be helpful to pick a new time or day to reconvene so the conversation doesn’t lose momentum. Here are a few examples of what you can say when suggesting a break:
“Maybe we should take a break and continue this conversation at the end of the day.”
“It might be best for us to take some time to process what we’ve both said. How about starting again tomorrow morning with a fresh perspective?”
“How about we schedule a time later this week to continue talking?”
“I think it’ll be good to take a break. How about we continue after lunch?”
7. Ask your manager to mediate
If you’re unsure how a conflict management conversation may go or if you’re forced to take a break and return another day, consider asking a manager to mediate the conversation. It is important that the manager doesn’t side with either party but can, instead, help you find a compromise as a team.
A manager can also help pause a conversation to allow other team members to speak and voice their concerns which can further develop open communication to find a helpful resolution.
8. Follow up with the other person
Once you’ve resolved the conflict, it is important to follow up with your colleague on the topics that were discussed, the resolution or compromise you found and thank them for their time. This can help build professional relationships in the workplace and hopefully benefit any further conflict management you might need to conduct in the future.
I hope you find this article helpful.