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How to Cope With Conflict in the Workplace

Posted by: Francis Mendoza

How to resolve conflict at work

Conflict is a part of office life. It is important to avoid and when necessary, resolve them before they get out of hand.  Recruiters, HR managers, line supervisors and managers, must learn how to handle situations where there is conflict between employees, especially if they refuse to work together.

It is first important to define what is meant by conflict. Differences and disagreements are bound to crop up.  But more often than not, actual conflict occurs in stages. Differences and disagreements are part and parcel of healthy communication. These are productive and even necessary, because a lack of spirited discussion – often in the form of differences and disagreements –   can be a sign of disinterest and lack of involvement. It’s when these discussions are allowed to go haywire and tempers are allowed to flare that managers need to step in and mediate. Raised voices and aggressive body language are danger signs that people are no longer willing to cooperate and are no longer receptive to feedback.

How to anticipate conflict.

Prevent escalation. Once early warning signs manifest in an associate, ask questions that are interactive. For example, after giving your idea, ask your colleague to share his or hers. Very often, this openness to dialogue is enough to defuse conflict from the start.

Between employees: Return to common goals.

Whatever the origin of the conflict (operational, organizational, or relational), there are various stages to conflict resolution. The longest and most difficult phase is to return to common goals. Typically, two opposing employees need to refocus from their individual agendas and remind themselves that they share the same corporate goals and they must paddle in the same direction. To do this, it is crucial to engage in open, one-on-one conversations where staffs freely express their point of view and how these can contribute to the advancement of the whole group.

Emotional aspect.

Some colleagues might have personal problems.  Make sure to limit the debate to a purely professional level. Rational, toned down discussions lead to better resolution.

Assisting an Employee.

The first thing to do when you find yourself in conflict with an employee is to mind your vocabulary. Avoid “Fix this problem” — say instead “I would like to see you address this issue.”  Similarly, “I have an alternative idea…” is a better than “I do not agree with you. ‘” The goal is to avoid getting blocked from the onset.  And if this step still doesn’t work, ask someone to mediate so that you can reach a compromise.

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