Defining a Conflict Resolution Process in the Workplace

March 31, 2022by Valerie Dansereau

A conflict in the workplace can cause work to be a distracting and tense environment, and the bad vibes can affect not only the people in conflict but also everyone around them. Most workplaces have a variety of processes and procedures that need to be followed in many aspects of work, but they don’t always include how to handle a conflict. Defining a conflict resolution process in the workplace is the best way to be prepared for disputes and disagreements before they happen and before they intensify.

Things That Trigger Conflict

To prepare a conflict resolution process in the workplace, it helps to brainstorm causes of conflict. Here are some of the things that may trigger conflict:

  • Personality clashes
  • Ineffective management
  • Poor communication which may lead to misunderstandings
  • Changes in the structure of the organization, which could happen for many different reasons such as fast growth of the company or a merger
  • Staffing shortage
  • Increased work volume
  • Work roles that are unclear
  • Dissimilar cultural backgrounds

Sometimes conflict is as simple as a difference of opinion on the best work procedures. Conflict can also be set off when people are dealing with a lot of stress outside work and become reactive in the workplace because of that.

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Steps to Include in a Conflict Resolution Process

It’s unrealistic to think that all conflicts can be prevented. The next best thing to preventing conflict from happening in the first place is dealing with it promptly and being prepared with specific steps to take to find a resolution. Examples of some things to include in a conflict resolution process in the workplace are:

  1. Clarify the problem and its source. Before any progress can be made in resolving conflict, it’s important that the problem is clarified. For some people, what comes before clarification is admitting there’s a problem at all, and then identifying the source of the problem.
  2. Give each person a chance to tell their side of the story. A manager or team leader should find a quiet place to allow the conflicting individuals to each tell their side of the story. Ground rules should be set, such as speaking in a calm way without dramatic emotions and without interrupting each other. The leader should practice active listening, which may include taking notes and restating each position as they understand it. Be aware of body language and avoid making assumptions.
  3. Brainstorm possible solutions. Conflict resolution requires the parties in conflict to brainstorm possible solutions. The common objective is to find a solution that works for both parties and for the good of the company. Have each party state what they’d like to see happen and brainstorm a way for each to get part of what they want. Try to find a solution that works for both parties. Decide on a plan of action and what’s expected of each individual.
  4. Evaluate progress. Once you’ve determined what needs to happen next, plan to have a follow-up meeting to see if things have settled down. Be prepared to take action if the problem resurfaces or if the solution you decided on isn’t working.
  5. Get outside help if necessary. Some conflicts may continue to intensify, which means they’re continuing to disrupt having a peaceful work environment. There are times when outside mediation is the best solution. Having an impartial third party involved can deescalate a tense situation and help people work through their differences.

Defining a conflict resolution process in the workplace can help you to be prepared to quickly address conflict whenever it happens. To become more effective at handling difficult workplace conflicts, consider conflict resolution training.

Reach out to Pollack Peacebuilding Systems to learn more about resolving a conflict or getting staff members trained.

Valerie Dansereau

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