How to Resolve Conflict Effectively

Apr 02, 2021
How to Resolve Conflict Effectively
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Workplace conflict is a common problem that can quickly become a major issue if left unaddressed, causing productivity and team morale to plummet. Here are some straightforward strategies to use when handling conflict

 Acknowledge and Clarify the Problem

Some human resources (HR) professionals may think the best thing to do is initially ignore the problem to see if it gets better without intervention. However, that could lead to severe consequences. 

A 2019 survey of 30,000 employees found that nearly one in three had left jobs due to associated conflicts. The best starting point is to accept that the problem exists. Face it head-on and commit to finding solutions.  

Next, people should clarify the nature of the issue with the parties involved. Doing that prevents any wrong assumptions about what’s happening. 

For example, an HR professional may believe someone has a bad attitude about a project because it comes with a heavier-than-usual workload. However, approaching the person to learn more might reveal frustration with a colleague in another time zone. More specifically, maybe the problem centers around “urgent” requests the disgruntled individual consistently receives 15 minutes before the end of their workday. 

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Focus on Events and Behavior

Another best practice for conflict resolution is to emphasize the associated events and behavior rather than the person. That way, it’s easier to ensure the offending parties don’t feel personally attacked during related conversations.

For example, maybe several office workers became frustrated about an individual who repeatedly cooks things that splash all over the break room microwave’s interior. That person doesn’t clean the appliance after use, so their colleagues arrive to find a mess. 

In that example, the best approach is to say something such as, “Riley, several colleagues have mentioned that they repeatedly find the microwave unclean after you use it.” That statement leads with how someone acted instead of the person responsible. 

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Maintain Personal Safety

Conflict resolution may require engaging with mentally unstable people or those with a history of acting dangerously. The reality is that circumstances can change quickly. That’s true even for professionals who are well-accustomed to interacting with people in distress. 

As a case in point, one study found that 21% of registered and student nurses polled reported being physically assaulted in one year. Using a lone worker safety solution is an effective way to keep workers safe if conflicts escalate when they are alone with a volatile person.

It’s understandable that an HR manager would want to resolve conflicts as promptly as possible. However, they should never attempt to proceed without prioritizing their safety first. Otherwise, a formerly manageable situation could turn tragic. 

Work Together to Identify Needs and Practical Solutions

Solving workplace conflict requires clarifying needs and ways to fix the identified issue. However, HR professionals should let the people involved express their feelings before trying to tackle things. Creating time for people to publicly acknowledge hurt or anger can put everyone in the right frame of mind. 

Maybe someone sensitive to noise says they need a quieter office mate. Start by figuring out which factors generate the biggest issues. Perhaps the person causing the bother simply has a voice that carries easily. Alternatively, maybe certain activities are more distracting. If the upsetting sound level stems from a trait someone can’t help, the best option is probably to relocate them elsewhere.

However, if it’s behavior-based, maybe the person concerned could adjust their actions a bit. For example, the problem may be that a worker plays music through headphones, and the noise-sensitive person can still hear it.  Asking the listener to turn down the volume, only listen to music for a half-day, or use an alternating quiet hour system could offer possible compromises. 

Monitor for Improvements

After initially strategizing how to address a conflict, HR professionals should schedule follow-up meetings to check progress. Those gatherings should involve both parties and give them ample time to discuss the actions they’ve taken to end or ease the tension. 

Planning to meet about two weeks after finalizing an action plan gives everyone a chance to try out the solution and assess how it works. Conflicts don’t always resolve after the first attempt. 

However, urging people to stay open and honest about what could lead to progress can keep them on track. Notes about what’s working well make it easier to motivate people to continue pursuing positive change, too. 

Conflict Resolution Is Within Reach

About Author: This article is written by a marketing team member at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of proven HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee communications & engagement, and rewards & recognition. Our user-friendly software increases employee productivity, delivers time and cost savings, and minimizes compliance risk.

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