Conflicts happen in the workplace, especially now that many businesses actively encourage employees to be more honest with each other. While this kind of transparency can lead to a high-performance workplace culture, it’s also important to develop a solid conflict resolution plan to deal with conflicts that arise.
Major disagreements can distract your team members without reliable conflict resolution strategies in place, leading to poor performance and even resignations. This step-by-step guide ensures you avoid these situations and maintain morale and productivity after a workplace dispute.
1. Identify the parties and the nature of the conflict
You can’t address a conflict in the workplace without knowing the parties involved. Whether you were in the room at the time or just heard rumours flying around the office, knowing which parties are implicated in the conflict is the first step to resolving it.
Once these facts have been established, it’s time to focus on understanding the nature of the conflict. Each party will have their version of events, so arrange a time to have a candid conversation with each person, listening carefully for points of agreement and disagreement.
2. Gather facts and information about the conflict
After discovering who’s involved and what the disagreement is about, delve deeper into the facts behind the conflict. This likely means identifying and speaking to others who might have helpful information. Ask considered questions to get the full picture.
When discussing the conflict, rephrase what the person has said back to them. This ensures you develop a clear understanding of the situation while giving people a chance to disagree with your interpretation. At all times, avoid interrupting or pre-empting their response.
3. Know the interests and needs of each party
Before suggesting a resolution, understand each party’s interests and needs. Ideally, this can be established through open communication, as you encourage everyone to speak honestly about what the perfect resolution looks like to them.
These answers can help you discover a middle ground that quickly resolves the conflict. While it’s not always straightforward, developing a detailed awareness of each party’s perspective will shape your response.
4. Generate options for resolving the conflict
Now that you understand the conflict and what each party believes is the best solution, you can generate options to resolve the issue. As always, these solutions should consider the short- and long-term ramifications, not just for the parties involved but also for your wider workforce.
Personality-based conflicts, where the issue boils down to differences in work styles, can often be handled by clearing the air and reinforcing the importance of respect. However, serious issues like harassment may require further punishment or workplace training.
5. Evaluate and select the best option for resolution
After producing several conflict resolution options, choose the one most likely to settle the issue permanently. Although it might be possible to act alone on this decision, it can be more effective to work with the involved parties to select the best solution.
As this process requires collaboration and empathy between those involved in the conflict, the resolution can have a long-lasting impact. Meanwhile, the team members involved will feel more responsible for the solution selected, lowering the risk of future conflict.
6. Develop an action plan to implement the resolution
With the resolution decided and agreed upon, it’s a good idea to produce an action plan that benefits the company and the individual parties involved. The plan should outline key responsibilities for each party to follow, ensuring the issue is finally cleared up.
For example, schedule regular meetings with each party in the coming weeks to discuss whether the resolution has helped. Alternatively, your action plan might mean setting a deadline for parties to work on different projects away from each other.
7. Follow up to ensure the resolution was a success
Even if the parties agree to a proposed resolution, don’t simply accept that the dispute has been resolved overnight. Conflict resolution can be an ongoing issue, where flair-ups between disagreeing parties can happen again if you’re not careful.
You should conduct regular follow-ups with each party involved to ensure this doesn’t happen. This way, you can learn whether all parties are satisfied. If not, you might have to start the conflict resolution process again or consider more drastic measures.