Effective Conflict Resolution Tips for a Peaceful, Productive Workplace

Conflict can take a considerable toll in the workplace. It impairs performance and affects employee morale, and if left unchecked, it can affect a company’s reputation and, ultimately, its bottom line.

Every year, workplace conflict costs companies a staggering $359 billion in the United States alone. Poor communication, personality clashes, misunderstandings, and opposing priorities and preferences are all common precursors for conflict at work.

In this article, we share five effective tips to help you deal with workplace conflict, providing strategies to deal with miscommunication and misunderstandings as they arise.

1. Speak in a Safe, Private Place

When a situation has gotten out of hand in the workplace, it must be addressed in a private, neutral environment. For example, if there has been an argument between two colleagues, rather than discussing the issue in either party’s office, it would be far more appropriate to convene a meeting in a neutral setting. Simply removing both parties from the scene of the argument can go a long way toward diffusing the situation, helping both sides to put the conflict in perspective.

Both sides must have an opportunity to air their views about what has happened without you jumping to conclusions or taking sides.

When we actively listen, we do more than just nod at the right times. Instead, we focus on the other person and what they have to say. A tactic employed by successful salespeople to build rapport with customers during their pitch, active listening is a core competency that every professional can benefit from mastering.

Given the amount of time we spend listening, we should be good at it. However, most of us are not. According to recent research, we remember just 25 percent of what we are told.

Listening is a skill that most people can improve. By becoming a better listener, you enhance your ability to persuade, negotiate, and influence, helping to avoid conflict and misunderstandings in the first place.

To actively listen, focus completely on the other person, avoiding all other distractions. Rather than trying to formulate counter-arguments in your head while they are talking, concentrate on their words completely.

It is important to be conscious of the speaker’s body language, and mindful of your own, too. For example, looking someone in the eye demonstrates candidness, but too much eye contact can be perceived as threatening.

3. Keep Calm and Stick to Specifics

When resolving conflict in the workplace, it is important to remain civil, particularly when one or both parties have already “crossed the line.” Accusations like “You never listen,” are not only vague, but they can be incredibly inflammatory. In general, “you” statements are perceived as accusatory, whereas “I” statements, such as “I feel like . . .” are more conciliatory.

If an employee feels that a colleague has been rude or inappropriate, they deserve to be heard. Nevertheless, the person who shouts the loudest is not necessarily the one in the right. A person who feels wronged should be listened to, but equally, it is important to consider the individual accused of bad behavior. Requesting that all parties stick to specifics can take some of the emotion out of uncomfortable situations.

4. Temper Negativity with Positive Feedback

There are at least two sides to any conflict. In some situations, you may come to recognize that one side is very obviously in the wrong. Sometimes criticism is unavoidable, but this needs to be delivered diplomatically, without embittering the recipient.

Constructive criticism is an approach that enables you to address a specific issue, and even lay blame, but is tempered by praise. So, rather than starting the discussion with accusations, offer a sincere compliment. This can coax the recipient to open up and keep them from feeling like they are being personally attacked.

5. Prioritize Resolution Over Being Right

Be it a policy change implemented by your manager or a frustrating conversation with an angry customer, workplace conflicts always involve more than one party, and in the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to think objectively.

To resolve conflict, take a step back and assess the situation logically. In doing so, you may see that perhaps you made the wrong call. After all, no one is right 100 percent of the time.

One of the hardest words we can say is “sorry.” Whether you are the one in the right or the one in the wrong, resolution is vital. In a workplace setting, it is best to put personal annoyances aside and forgive the other person, working to create a healthier relationship moving forward.

Originally published at https://carltonjames.org on April 13, 2022.

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Carlton James is a Director of GBTI and a Consultant Specialist in corporate communications for development

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Carlton James

Carlton James

Carlton James is a Director of GBTI and a Consultant Specialist in corporate communications for development

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