De-escalating Conflict in the Workplace - Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

When we think about workplace conflict, many people jump immediately to solving it; mitigating the dispute entirely and trying to prevent it from ever happening again. While this goal may be understandable given the high costs of conflict, both on time and finances, it may not always be realistic to completely eradicate the idea of conflict overall. De-escalating conflict in the workplace is an interesting goal to zoom in on as it gives a less overwhelming goal to begin with and opens up a world of new skills to you and your employees alike.

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De-escalating Conflict in the Workplace

Instead of quickly trying to overcome conflict at work, incremental progress may be a more achievable goal, and one that can encourage ongoing collaboration between all team members. De-escalating conflict in the workplace introduces a particular nuance to conflict that often goes unnoticed when solely pursuing solutions, and it can be just the trick to highlighting important interpersonal skills that tend to go equally unnoticed.

Appear Calm, Confident, and Collaborative

De-escalating conflict in the workplace requires a sense of stability that is confident and containing but not arrogant. If you’re the manager or leader in the situation, carry yourself in a way that indicates you’re not fearful or intimidated, but also don’t set out to fear or intimidate. Be approachable and suggest with your body language and tone of voice that you ultimately believe in your employees, even if they’re struggling with their own expression at the moment, and that resolution is on the horizon.

Allow Space for Emotional Expression

When conflict stays escalated, it’s often because someone feels as though they’re not being heard. Learning how to handle staff conflict often overlooks the part where people need to be people, which includes letting out some of their frustration in a safe way. Giving your employee a safe and private space to vent, where you allow room for their emotional expression without taking their words to heart, but validating their experience of frustration, anxiety, overwhelm, confusion, anger, sadness, etc. can help to de-escalate the situation. Some people may need containment following that, which may include a reminder that their feelings are valid, and they deserve support and empathy, but also that perhaps their current behavior isn’t appropriate for the environment, so how can you both work together to ensure they get their needs met? De-escalation training can help you and your team fine tune these skills for better efficacy.

Take Notes and Plan Action

Navigating conflict within the workplace can be overwhelming because every conflict is a little bit different. But taking seriously the concerns of each individual is one way to help keep things from further escalating. So when employees are upset, either about colleagues, leadership, policies, protocols, tools, expectations, workload, and so on, even if you think there’s nothing you can do to make their requests, take their concerns seriously. Document their frustrations, and make a plan to get more information, recognizing the conflict as an indication of just how serious the impact of these problems may be. Employees do not have infinite resources but they are often expected to carry the trickle-down of the organization’s limits. This isn’t fair, and it will have consequences on your people, so engage from that perspective to validate their experience as best you can.

De-escalating conflict in the workplace is challenging. Get support from experienced professionals who can diffuse the tension and supply your team with the right skills for conflict resolution moving forward. Contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems today to get the right solutions for your organization.

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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