Conflict in the workplace is bound to happen given the many personalities and perspectives of employees. However, not all conflict is bad. In a safe space full of respect, disagreements can push an organization forward and lead to innovation.
Since conflict is inevitable, it’s important to understand how to handle it in a constructive manner. Leaders can take thoughtful steps to listen to all side of a disagreement and moderate the discussion to a positive outcome. Here are six steps to handle a conflict in the workplace.
1. Establish a “safe space” for discussion.
First, ask all involved parties to meet in a neutral location. Ask everyone to treat each other respectfully throughout the discussion. It’s also a good idea to make sure participants use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. Example: “I think that the way we are doing things works best” instead of “You are doing things the wrong way.”
2. Identify the source of conflict.
To resolve any conflict, you first need define the cause of it. Ask both parties to state the disagreement from their points of view. This gets everything on the table and out in the open. When you can discuss what needs are not being met on both sides, you can more easily find the common ground. Remind everyone to stay calm and try to keep emotions out of the conversation.
3. Listen carefully to the information presented.
While you are listening, do not interrupt! You will have a chance to validate each party’s ideas with your comments after they have spoken from their viewpoint. Let everyone have their say and take notes if necessary.
4. Look at the facts and investigate the situation.
Refer to your notes as you think over the situation, and clarify any points necessary. Take this opportunity to dig deeper to the roots of the issue where you can. Remember, resolving this issue once is helpful, but the key goal is to prevent it from happening again. It may be helpful to summarize each party’s statements and repeat back to them.
5. Find common ground and agree on the best solution.
Identify the points where everyone is in agreement. State all the facts that support these points, and discuss solutions that can appease both sides. One of the most constructive things that conflict can bring about is an innovative new solution! The goal of everyone’s work is to meet company objectives, and the solution can help move everyone forward. Make sure you determine the responsibilities of each party moving forward.
6. Follow up after a while.
Keep an eye on the issue should it arise again and hold each party accountable for their responsibilities. Decide on methods to prevent the issue from happening again, including putting into place workflows that support the solution.
As long as everyone works together on conflict resolution, your team will learn from your example. They will be less likely to need your help with future disagreements and will learn by your example!