6 steps to resolve workplace conflict

“If Patty gets to diffuse her eucalyptus oil, I should be able to diffuse my peppermint oil.”

“Why can George wear headphones but I can’t close my door and listen to the radio at a reasonable level?”

“How come you changed the birthday recognition plan right before MY birthday?”

Ah, the bickering, backstabbing and gossip. Sound familiar? As a busy manager, are you tempted to overlook this behavior, especially if the work is getting done? All we can say is… don’t.

Negativity and conflict snowball into bigger problems if they are not resolved. Unresolved issues escalate into negative workplace environments lowering morale, increasing turnover, and reducing productivity. An atmosphere of negativity can make resolution feel impossible, but it’s not. Here’s an example:

Patty is a busy branch manager. Her ability to operate independently and take decisive action is a huge asset in her position. But, because her attention is on the big picture, she has a habit of glossing over details about procedures when communicating with the staff. This has led to some confusion for Anne, the teller, and the first point of contact for members. As the liaison between members and the rest of the branch office, Anne has to act fast, but she has a strong need for structure and precision. Having unintentional gaps in her knowledge base frustrates her and makes her feel anxious and underprepared.

Whether the conflict is large or small, there are six easy steps you can take to resolve the problem. They are:  

  • Clarify the disagreement.   
  • Establish a common goal for both parties.
  • Discuss ways to meet the common goal.  
  • Determine the barriers to the common goal.
  • Agree on the action steps for each party.
  • Hold each other accountable.

These are great steps for solving problems, but the deeper you go into the roots of why there is a conflict, the better the solution is going to be. Knowing the personality traits of the people involved helps facilitate these steps by customizing the process.

Patty, knowing Anne, needs to make sure that detailed materials are easily accessible on any teller procedures. Similarly, Anne, knowing Patty, needs to make sure that if something isn’t clear right away, she asks follow-up questions to get the answers she requires to feel supported in her role. Understanding the underlying reason for the disagreement makes it easier to see where the common goals and barriers are going to be. And this makes it easier to figure out what needs to be done to successfully take responsibility for the resolution.

Understanding your team’s behavioral motivators can head off problems and improve communication between those who may not have found synergy with each other yet. Giving them opportunities to learn what makes the other tick turns the potential for mistrust into a bonding experience.

Conflicts between co-workers exist in every business environment. It can stem from something simple like a procedural barrier to something more complex like two leaders giving out conflicting instructions.

The best offices cultivate a culture of communication and ownership of disputes. Empower your people to discuss conflicts with each other and come up with workable solutions, rather than feeling like they have to escalate every issue to a manager. Being drawn into every conflict takes time away from growing the business and developing the entire team.

It’s okay if your organization is finding its way through internal conflicts because we are strengthened by working through our adversity. But for goodness sake, don’t change the birthday celebrations mid-year!

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt

Carletta Clyatt, a popular seminar speaker, is the SVP at The Omnia Group.  She offers clients advice on how to manage more effectively and gain insight into employee strengths, weaknesses ... Web: www.omniagroup.com Details

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