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  • Writer's pictureTracey Smith

Resolving Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict will always be with us and conflict will always be a part of the workplace. It will happen and it makes the ability to resolve the conflict a must have skill for any effective leader. The real issue for any team or workplace is what we do with the conflict and how we effectively handle it. So, how do you create a healthy workplace culture that understands the importance of conflict resolution or a workplace that knows how to resolve conflict? When conflict arises in the workplace, consider following these steps to resolve it:

  • Realize conflict is inevitable. Whenever there are two or more people in the workspace, there will eventually be conflict. Why? We are not perfect people. Conflict will happen no matter how spiritual you or your co-worker may be. So be prepared for conflict whenever it happens and don’t be surprised that it happened under your leadership.

  • Recognize the true source of conflict. Almost all conflict stems from one source…PRIDE. Someone does not get their way and now it is time to dig in our heels and stand our ground. Is it your pride, or is it the pride of someone else. It is good to recognize that conflict will show up in many different forms but the true source will probably be someone’s pride getting in the way.

  • Restore the relationship. The goal of conflict resolution is not to decide which person is right or wrong; the goal is to reach a solution and restore the relationship. Agree that your relationship is important and that you both want to restore mutual positive feelings. Remind the other person of the positive elements of your relationship, and your desire to have more positive interactions in the future.. Once you understand the advantages of having a habit of resolving conflict, then you discover the true benefits of a healthy workplace.

  • Resolve the conflict. Do not just ignore it! (In Matthew 18, Jesus explains how to handle conflict.) Do not avoid the conflict and think it will just go away. Trust me! It will not! Avoidance many times will just cause the conflict to get worse.

So, how do you resolve the conflict?

  • Go to the person privately and one-on-one. It is important that organizations promote healthy and authentic communication within the work environment. So, when emotions have cooled a bit, schedule a time to sit down with the other person to discuss the conflict in a safe and private space to talk.

  • Clarify the relationship. Let them know, no matter what the conflict is, I value you and I value our relationship.

  • Identify the issue. Be specific and let them know that “this” (whatever caused the conflict in the first place) is the issue and keep it the issue. Use statements like “when this happens…” instead of “when you do this…” Try to avoid using “you” statements but instead use “I” statements. Most of the time people confuse the issue with the relationship. This is why it is important to continue to clarify your relationship and identify the issue.

  • Listen carefully. Listen attentively to what is being said and do not interrupt them while they are speaking. Once they have completed speaking, then repeat what was said so you make sure you understand what they are saying. When you actively listen to the other person, it allows them to feel valued and heard and can give all involved a much better perspective of why you had the conflict in the first place.

  • Find a solution. Together, write down every solution you can think of – even silly ones. Make a list together of ways to resolve the conflict. This promotes and opens lines of healthy communication within the workplace. Make a plan and start resolving the conflict. If it’s not the solution, then try another one. Be committed to resolving the conflict and restoring the relationship if needed. Maintain a positive attitude and ensure that you will have a collaborative “let’s work it out” approach.

If you are unable to resolve the conflict, then ask for a mediator. A mediator is a 3rd person that can help the 2 parties communicate peacefully, stick to the issue and solve the problem, and work out a plan for resolution. A great mediator will never meet separately with the people who are involved in the conflict. This is never helpful as you risk polarizing their positions. If the mediator places themselves as the sole judge and jury, then this forces the persons involved to state their case and “win” it. A great mediator will not take sides, gossip about the issue, or put blame on either person. The mediator’s role is to ask great questions, listen carefully to both sides, help each person discover the best solution, and help them stay committed to resolution. Mediators cannot be directly involved in the conflict but must remain neutral. If the conflict is still not resolved, then resolve it within yourself.

Ask these questions to see if you may be the barrier to conflict resolution:

  • Am I truly seeking resolution?

  • Am I observing the Golden Rule? Yes, your mother was correct when she told you this?

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.”

  • Am I extending grace to everybody? Give others the benefit of the doubt.

“Make allowance for each other’s faults, & forgive anyone who offends you."

Conflict management is very important to any team or organization. Leaders who are unable to handle conflict appropriately can paralyze the growth of the organization. Conflict is an inevitable part of an organization, team, and leadership—just like it is an inevitable part of life. Here a few good reminders as we lead through conflict:

  • Conflict is not a sign of poor leadership skills.

  • Even the best of Staff teams will experience conflict.

  • There are great benefits whenever conflict is handled in the proper way.

  • Commitment to creating a culture of conflict resolution and practice are the keys to making conflict resolution work!

Conflict itself is not bad. Rather, it is how you handle conflict that is important. If you or your team need help with Mediation or Crisis Management Coaching, please contact our team to see how we can help! Cheering you on!



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