85% of employees experience conflict in the workplace. Often, team members, employees and leaders want to find ways to resolve conflicts and disagreements, but don't know how to handle the situation. An effective leader recognises that workplace conflict happens and has the skills and tools to help team members resolve situations and disagreements in a collaborative way.
01,3 benefits of resolving conflict in the workplace
With strategy, confidence and good intentions, you can facilitate healthy conflict resolution among team members. More importantly, you can guide them to become resilient and confident problem solvers. Here are three specific benefits for you, your team and your organisation when conflict and disagreements are resolved in an effective and collaborative manner.
Higher retention rates
One in five employees report that colleagues have left the company due to conflict and 25% of team members call in sick to avoid workplace issues.
These findings illustrate how unresolved conflict can have a negative impact on your business. However, a culture of willingness to communicate and appropriate conflict resolution strategies can enable team members to see conflict as a personal and professional development opportunity.
Increased productivity and collaboration
When managed properly, conflict can improve motivation, mutual understanding and team performance. When explored rather than avoided, misunderstandings or differences of opinion can lead to innovation and new insights.
Better conflict resolution skills
When team members receive conflict resolution training, their confidence in managing conflict increases by 27%.
While training may not always be the right choice for every employee, leaders can help their teams get to know each other better and build healthy relationships in the midst of differences and conflict. Conflict is inevitable, so it is vital to equip team members with the right tools and knowledge to find win-win solutions. This approach will help build confidence that resolutions can be achieved.
Leaders can manage workplace conflict more effectively by taking an approach that involves the five stages of conflict resolution. When implemented properly, leaders can not only help team members solve problems, but also enable them to achieve results that will advance their careers and build a more collaborative culture. Remember that not every stage of the conflict resolution process is required in every situation. Flexibility is key when it comes to resolving differences and conflicts, so let's look at the stages that can be used as a guide for you to work with others to find collaborative solutions to conflicts and differences.
02, 5 stages of conflict resolution
Defining the conflict
The goal of the first stage of the conflict resolution process is for you and your team members to explore the situation and root causes of the conflict. This first step is essential to ensure that you are addressing the real conflict and laying the right foundation for a solution. Understanding what and where the conflict is coming from may take some time and effort, but the more information you gather will help everyone be better equipped to resolve the conflict in an informed way. It is also important to remember that conflict can come from a variety of sources, so don't be afraid to explore all aspects of it.
Ask questions to gain more information about the perspectives and concerns of all parties involved, and here are some questions that can help you get started.
How and when did this conflict start?
How did it make you feel?
What do you observe that indicates a problem?
What is stopping you from overcoming the differences?
What factors contributed to the situation?
How did the conflict affect work and productivity?
What situations escalate or downgrade the situation?
When you understand the causes of conflict, give all parties an equal opportunity to share their views and information, demonstrate active listening skills and reserve comments until everyone has had a chance to 'voice' their concerns. Remember that you are there to help others find collaborative solutions, so remain neutral in defining the conflict.
Be aware of potential problems
When disagreements or conflicts arise and emotions run high, people will tend to bring up other situations or historical experiences. As a leader, you must help people identify what is relevant to the issue at hand and manage grievances beyond the particular conflict you are dealing with. Are there negative attitudes that overshadow the dispute? Is the conflict solely work-related or does it involve personal issues? How can you help both parties to move beyond their emotions and focus on the conflict itself?
Because past experiences, emotions and personal styles can interfere with successful resolution, you need to be willing to point out potential problems and help team members identify what is relevant and what is not. If you need to explore potential problems, here are some questions to ask.
What specific situations do you think triggered this particular problem?
How do these emotions and past experiences affect your ability to resolve conflict?
Are those past experiences relevant to what is happening now?
As you help lead the discussion and raise the issues and emotions, continue to keep your personal feelings in check. Avoid passing the buck and make it clear that you are only a coach who mediates successful conflict resolution. If team members don't seem ready to have a productive, open and honest discussion about solutions, it may be necessary to pause and revisit the issue at a different time. A cooler head can produce a clearer perspective, so monitor verbal and non-verbal cues that indicate the readiness of all parties.
Another key part of resolving disagreements and disputes is to give each party the opportunity to express their needs and interests and to listen to the needs and interests of others. Thus we move to the third stage - identifying needs. As each party demonstrates a willingness to understand each other's interests, they will become more open to the possibility of new solutions and approaches.
Human beings have five basic needs: survival, love and a sense of belonging, power, freedom and pleasure. Keep these basic principles in mind when clarifying the needs and interests of both parties, needs that may relate to one of these areas
Survival. Survival means feeling safe. When this safety and security is threatened, it can cause stress and pressure. Is someone not functioning on a client project? Does this cause your team members to feel additional pressure and stress?
Love and a sense of belonging. This relates to the emotional connection between team members. Most people want to be accepted, valued and feel a sense of belonging within the team - does anyone feel they are not included in important decisions?
Power. Centred on self-esteem, power involves the need to be important, to be recognised and to make a difference - does a particular team member dominate the project plan because they want their expertise to be recognised?
Freedom. This relates to creative freedom and the ability to act freely without restriction, is one of your colleagues micromanaging team members in a way that is detrimental to their productivity and quality of work
Fun. This relates to the need for play, relaxation and humour - are team members making comments that are harmful to others?
When team members express their needs and goals, it is crucial to focus on what is right and who is right. Recognise the merits of their views and experiences and actively support the right of others to disagree or disagree. Depending on the type of personality involved, team members may simply want the other person to change rather than express their needs. Therefore, this stage may require you to show some assertiveness in order to help everyone be willing to step back and remain flexible. Your goal is to help them be open to the possibility of new solutions that take into account each person's needs.
Brainstorm possible solutions and goals
Once team members have expressed their needs and got to know each other better, they are now ready to explore new ideas and solutions to meet common interests and achieve desired outcomes, which begins the fourth stage - brainstorming possible solutions and goals.
Help all parties understand that collaborative thinking and innovation can lead to solutions that meet the needs of all involved. Encouraging them to expand their options, blend ideas and look for new possibilities, enlisting everyone's ideas and participation will ensure that individual needs are met and that all parties will support the proposed solution.
Agree on a solution and implement it
At this point, team members should understand how they have led to disagreement or conflict, what the needs of each party are, and how each can move forward. In this final stage, all parties should share their commitment to the solution and plan the next steps.
As you conclude the conflict resolution phase, express any resistance, reservations or potential concerns about moving forward with the agreement, which will confirm that both parties understand what is expected of them and are willing to implement the plan. You may ask.
What specifically needs to be done to finalise the solution?
Who is willing to take responsibility for each action item
I am committed to supporting you through this approach. Are you committed to trying it?
Does anyone have concerns about the process we have outlined?
What will you both do if problems arise? What are your expectations of each other?
Check in regularly to see how the plan is going and to set a time for progress reviews. If something isn't working, revisit the necessary steps above to help them make the right adjustments. Of course, to acknowledge progress and successes along the way, you may need to provide some guidance to both parties as they make changes, stay on track, overcome setbacks and continue to try solutions.
Helping team members resolve conflicts and disagreements can be challenging, but when team members work collaboratively, understand each other and engage in meaningful dialogue, you can turn difficult situations into positive forces.