5 Effective steps to handle workplace conflict

5 Effective steps to handle workplace conflict

In a perfect workplace, everybody gets along smoothly. There is no conflict of ideas or clash of personalities, and work is done uninterruptedly.

Alas, that’s not how it is in the real world. Office drama is a frequent occurrence, with tensions often running high. In the best-case scenarios, opposing parties find a common ground and easily resolve disagreements. But in the worst-case scenarios, conflicts can escalate, cause division within the team, stress employees, and delay projects.

It is, therefore, in everyone’s interest to keep the peace. If you ever find yourself having to mediate in a workplace conflict, here are some recommendations on how to best handle the situation.

1. Identify the source of the conflict

This allows disagreeing parties to get to the root of the conflict. This also helps clarify what the real problem is, as two coworkers who constantly argue may not even be certain why they're always arguing. For instance, one person tends to disagree with whatever the other person says, while the other person may simply dislike the other person's attitude. Laying down all the concerns will help ensure that everyone involved is on the same page. It is also key to ensuring mutual understanding.

Ask probing questions to uncover the heart of the matter, and let the parties involved reiterate the problem in their own words. This will help both sides get to the bottom of their issues and work towards resolving them.

2. Let individuals involved express their feelings

Hurt, frustration, anger, and other negative feelings are often present in conflict situations. To facilitate problem-solving, it’s important that these emotions are expressed and acknowledged.

Let each side speak what they feel and what may help them quell their emotions. Ask them to identify what their desired outcome is and how it can be achieved. Their statements can help you find the key to deescalating the situation.

3. Find common areas of agreement

It’s crucial that both sides agree to work toward the same goal, even if it’s just to agree on wanting to end the conflict. Having a common goal puts the involved parties on the same footing as well.

Find areas of agreement by asking what each party would like to happen, both in the short term and in the long term. What procedures would they like to follow? What would give them an assurance that these procedures would be followed? On top of these, what immediate change can somehow alleviate the situation? Answering these questions can reveal ways to lessen the hostility between parties.

4. Discuss the barriers to achieving the common goal

Some conflicts don’t — and can’t — get resolved right away. Some issues can still persist even after parties find a common ground, so it’s essential to delve into what may prevent conflict from being settled.

Let everyone explain their qualms, worries, or fears about the planned steps to resolve the issues at hand. What do they think could go wrong? For instance, if one party expresses doubts that the other will hold their end of the bargain, they must explain why they think so. Discussing these hurdles will help everyone involved find ways to overcome barriers to conflict resolution

5. Follow up

Many conflicts, especially deep ones, will not be solved in one sitting. Be prepared to see the resolutions through by scheduling follow-up meetings to check in on how the different parties are doing.

Did each side do what they said they would do? If they did, what’s the next step in the reconciliation process? If they didn’t, what prevented them from honoring their word? Depending on your company’s policies, remind involved parties that the unresolved conflict can affect their performance appraisals, or subject them to coaching sessions or disciplinary action.

If the issue persists and starts to cause a distraction in the workplace, you can escalate the issue to a superior or tap an outside facilitator who can offer insights on solving the problem.

Conflicts are an inevitable part of every workplace — IT downtimes are not. Partner with SpectrumWise for reliable, efficient IT. Schedule a FREE consultation with our business technology specialist today.