No matter how great your organization is, workplace conflicts are inevitable. Conflicts don’t arise because of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ people, but because everyone is different and have their own opinions. When individuals fail to agree or have varying points of view, conflicts spring up. And since workplace conflicts cannot be avoided, it makes sense to prepare so that we can handle ourselves when disputes arise.
As a leader, your response will determine how the conflict ends. This is where you may find these “5 C’s of Conflict Resolution” helpful. Here’s how you can handle conflict at work without ruffling any feathers.
1. Carefully Listen
Every conflict has sides, and they may all be right. Before forming an opinion or siding with a point of view, diligently listen to what each party has to say, even though you may not agree with everyone.
Paying heed to the opinion of each party involved, gives you an opportunity to let everyone feel heard and understood. Careful listening is the first step of conflict resolution since it lets you validate other’s ideas and come across as a just leader. Allow each party to present their ideas, making sure that the other groups reserve their comments till the end and do not interrupt the others.
The idea isn’t to access whose argument is better, but rather to listen to each point of view with an open mind. Who knows, you may even be able to reconcile seemingly opposing views for an even better outcome. But you will never know what possibilities await you until you learn to listen carefully to each other.
2. Considerately Look At the Situation
Anxieties and emotions tend to run high in the midst of conflicts. To avoid aggravating the situation and making people feel exasperated as you mediate the conflict, make sure your teams learn to respect each other’s opinions, even though they may not agree with them. In addition to simply listening to others, your teams need to understand and accept each other’s opinions and ideas.
Remind your team that no one is always right and our ideas aren’t always the best. Consideration for others can make all the difference. Make sure your team listens to each other and then give them some time to ponder over what they have heard. Have them list down their points of agreement and disagreement and try to work together on a compromise. After all, a half loaf is better than none. Make sure your teams keep an open mind and are willing to settle for second best if needed.
3. Cordially Discuss
Sometimes the best thing to do in a conflictive situation is to be cordial. However, this in no way means that you should give up on your convictions merely for the sake of maintaining the peace. The key is to understand when is it absolutely important to stand and be counted – no matter the cost, and when it is ok to compromise and settle for the second best.
This answer only comes from honest self-introspection, instead of forming a decision based on your own personal preference, prejudice, and pride. Know that sometimes, it is best to go along and let go. It may not sound idealistic, especially if you like things to always go your way, but it is true.
One thing I have realized as a leader is that conflicts worsen when emotions come into play and the arguing parties become personal. This is why it becomes all the more important that the parties involved stay calm. Keep your team as composed as possible if you want then to produce clearer ideas. As a mediator, you should never appear to be taking sides or putting people down for their opinions. Stay calm and reasonable and encourage you team to remain cordial and civil as well. Don’t let emotions overwhelm the situation by thwarting anyone from shouting, passing offensive comments, or blaming others.
4. Conscientiously Look At the Facts
As a mediator, you should collect all facts before you move towards conflict resolution. Look at the issue on the table from the perspective of each party involved and clarify all points under discussion so that there is no ambiguity involved.
For instance, if a conflict arises because your team members have different ideas on how to solve a workplace crisis, first try to identify what each team member perceives as the problem. You will be surprised to find so many different perspectives and possible solutions on the same problem. Make sure each party puts forward their ideas without interruption so that you can all get the relevant facts you need to make an informed decision. Stay mindful of what each person is trying to say. Be thorough in your investigation.
This is the ideal outcome of a workplace conflict, when both sides could walk away with a win-win situation. When you apply all the principals of conflict resolution above, you would achieve the highest goal of all – consensus! This is only achieved when all the parties involved realize that while their perspective and positive may seem poles apart, their bottom-line interests are usually the same.
For instance, two people may argue about how to achieve a goal or handle a project. This argument reflects their preferred methodologies. But, when they begin to focus on the goal itself, which is the same for both of them, then they are focused on a common interest.