5 Ways to Handle Conflict in the Workplace

December 20, 2019by Vanessa Rose

So you’re new to leadership and have just been hit with the stress of your first conflict among employees. As much as you may want to involve HR or encourage the team to sort it out themselves, chances are you’re likely going to need to step in and provide some mediation support. There are practical strategies you can utilize to help you in this tricky part of people management. Here we’ll share 5 ways to handle conflict in the workplace so you know where to start.

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5 Ways to Handle Conflict in the Workplace

Resolving conflict at work is difficult and you may find yourself needing some guidance on how to begin. Don’t fear conflict. Workplace disputes are common, but it’s also important to address them as soon as possible so they don’t escalate or begin to impact more people, and therefore, your bottom line. These 5 ways to handle conflict in the workplace are a good place to start.

1. Take a Strength-Based Approach
There are many steps to manage conflict in the workplace but a strength-based foundation is important for them to be successful. What this means is that instead of looking at disputing employees as being problematic, dramatic, or emotional, see what they do bring to the table and focus on fostering those strengths. This can help in a few ways, the least of which is that you, as the mediator, will not take out your frustration on these employees, subsequently escalating the conflict. This approach to conflict resolution will also help diffuse some tension if you’re able to see the good in these employees and remind them what they have to offer the team and each other.

2. Listen Carefully
Listening — and demonstrating that you’re listening — is important in conflict. In fact, of these 5 ways to handle conflict in the workplace, listening is arguably the most important step. When people don’t feel heard, they tend to stay stuck in the conflict. Their emotions are stirred and they will keep fighting until they feel they’ve made their point. So listening and validating the emotions and perceptions of others, whether or not you agree, can help quell any heightened anxieties. Listening can be among the informal conflict resolution strategies that can be done often and have a big impact. It’s also a reminder of the need for emotional intelligence when managing conflict at work.

3. Prioritize Areas of Conflict
It’s common for conflict to be about more than just the one obvious thing at hand, but if past transgressions or personal issues start to take center stage, it will be important to redirect the conversation back to the most important and current components of the conflict. This means asking disputing parties to name which part of the conflict has the biggest impact on them, as well as using your managerial leadership to make important decisions about impacts to the business.

4. Focus on Events, Not Personalities
Conflict resolution models in HR will often utilize insight into individual personalities in order to help execute effective leadership strategies. In other words, knowing languages of appreciation and motivation factors for each individual employee can help you tend to their needs and get better results. However, while personalities are important and may very well be at the helm of conflict, this is not the time to bring your reflections into the mix. Use this time to focus on what went wrong between the two employees and work toward a solution that works for everyone, rather than drawing attention to personality quirks and needs.

5. Foster Collaboration
These 5 ways to handle conflict in the workplace are not the only approaches that will help diffuse workplace tension, but they’re a good place to start and build upon. As you continue in your leadership role and face your share of conflicts, your skills and ability to manage them will increase. One thing that’s important to always apply during conflict, so long as it’s safe to do so, is foster collaboration between disputing parties. This means once the emotions have calmed and communication is accessible, the leader or mediator should ask each employee to work together towards a common solution. This helps empower employees while also helping to rebuild rapport between them.

Avoid making costly mistakes by reaching out to the professionals. Get conflict resolution coaching in your workplace to help mitigate disputes when they arise, and implement best practices to avoid them in the future. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today.

ways to handle conflict in the workplace

Vanessa Rose

Vanessa is a licensed psychotherapist and writer living in Los Angeles. When not on a mission for inner peace and conflict resolution, she enjoys making art, visiting the beach, and taking dog portraits. Always curious about self-improvement and emotional expansion, Vanessa also manages her own website which explores the unconscious and archetypal influences on how we eat, express, and relate.


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