5 tips for modern workplace conflict management and resolution

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As a future leader, you will need to confront a wide variety of issues related to your business. Some of these arise internally in the form of conflicts between two or more employees. Such disagreements range in severity from mildly frustrating to halting production completely. So, you’ll need to know how to resolve them effectively, or be aware of the right steps to take to correct this. Here are five tips to help you do so in a modern business environment.

1. Identify the source and size of the conflict.

Before attempting to help resolve an issue, you should know as many details about it as possible. The more you know about a particular problem, the better equipped you are to either inform human resources or provide a solution that appeases both parties.
The American Management Association suggested asking employees a series of questions to help you get a better understanding of the issue. Possible queries include:
• “How did this incident begin?”
• “Were there other incidents prior to this one?”
• “Do you see any relationships or similarities between this current conflict and past occurrences?”
• “When did you first feel upset?”
Be sure to devote equal amounts of your efforts to each party involved. This doesn’t mean you need to measure your time down to the minute, but be careful to avoid letting one person dominate your view of the situation.

2. Opt for face-to-face conversations over virtual ones.

When talking to your staff and trying to uncover the root of a conflict, schedule meetings face-to-face whenever possible. Recent research published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology suggests that people are more likely to comply with requests when present with the requester. Researchers asked 45 participants to ask 10 strangers to complete a survey. Half the group was told to contact people by email, while the other half was instructed to make their requests face-to-face. After analyzing the results, the researchers found live communications were 34 times more likely to result in a positive response than email. They then provided the following conclusions:

• People generally underestimate how much others are willing to comply with requests made face-to-face.
• People overestimate how much others are willing to comply with requests made over email.
• People fail to recognize how untrustworthy or unempathetic their emails appear to others.
When applied to a business environment, these results suggest that your team members are more likely to respond well to in-person meetings rather than email discussions. They posit that speaking directly to a person facilitates an empathetic understanding that email lacks. In essence, the employee feels like you recognize them as a person and is more willing to not only speak with you on the issue, but to prioritize conflict resolution over other, less essential duties.

Have your employees explain the conflict in face-to-face meetings.

3. Evaluate your thoughts and feelings as a leader.

Once you’ve gotten a handle on the situation, take a step back and process the information you’ve obtained. Give yourself time to analyze what you’ve gleaned from your staff, don’t try to settle the problem right away as you may accidentally take incorrect actions based on preconceived notions.

During this time, evaluate your own responses to the information you’ve learned. Did an employee make a claim that caused you to feel strongly in some way? How can you handle your emotional responses so they don’t adversely affect your decisions? As a leader, it’s important to answer these questions honestly so you can do what’s best for your team.

4. Have teams or staff collaborate on a conflict resolution protocol.

A conflict resolution protocol is a set of procedures that guide employees on the steps to take when they arrive at disagreements in the workplace. Establishing a protocol is vital, but keep in mind that people feel more favorably toward initiatives they have helped create.

Creating a conflict resolution protocol is often a task for the human resources department. As a business leader, however, you should make sure your team members or employees have a chance to provide their input.

5. Mandate conflict management training.

Conflict resolution protocols are only effective if employees know how to go through the steps correctly. For example, most guidelines require staff to attempt to resolve the issue themselves before bringing in management. However, if two employees do not know how to effectively communicate their disagreements, this step is essentially ineffective.

To avoid this issue and strengthen your conflict resolution initiatives, make sure your teams attend ongoing training to help employees communicate. A good way to start, noted the Society for Human Resource Management, is to have your staff complete self-assessments that analyze their current resolution styles. Once they understand how they currently approach disagreements, they can evaluate the pros and cons of their methods and those of others. They can also work through strategies to better negotiate with their peers. These conflict management training workshops can be developed internally or provided by a third party such as a professional association or consulting firm.

Training workshops can make your conflict management protocols more effective.

Conflict resolution isn’t always easy, but it’s a necessary part of leadership. Our online MBA program can teach you other such vital information and skills necessary to becoming a business leader. Check out our enrollment criteria to see if our 100% online MBA can help you with your educational and occupational goals.

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