Development and Retention

Conflict management and resolution

Occasional conflict at work is almost inevitable but that does not mean it has to become a serious issue.

It can be hard to avoid, particularly in competitive environments where the stakes and stress-levels are often high. Some sales environments, for example, can be prone to conflict, filled as they are typically suited to individuals committed to ‘winning’ everything – including arguments.

The good news is that, when handled correctly, conflicts can actually have positive outcomes. They can inspire innovation and creativity. But how should they be handled to grasp the positives rather than allowing them to turn into ugly situations?

Avoidance is never the answer as this can allow problems to fester and build until they reach a point where solutions are impossible to find. Continuing conflict that goes on for long periods without being resolved is likely to foster resentment. This can have an impact that extends far beyond the individuals involved.

Resolving conflict – factors to consider

Starting the process of conflict resolution can be the hardest part but choosing the right first step can be key to a successful outcome.

  • A good starting point is to plan a meeting to discuss the issues. This is better than risking making the other person feel as though they are under attack by turning up unannounced in their office or at their desk.
  • Try to arrange this meeting as soon as possible; the longer conflict is allowed to continue, the more chance there is that it will affect other members of the team and the quality and productivity levels being achieved within the workplace.
  • Before any meeting, formulate a plan so that you know precisely what you want and need to talk about. Ensure that you are focussed on a constructive discussion rather than on an unplanned rant, and be prepared to compromise.
  • Try to uncover the reasons behind the conflict. Listening to and understanding the other person’s point of view is vital in finding a resolution.
  • A potentially good solution is to set an achievable mutual goal. You could pledge to always listen to each other’s point of view even if you ultimately disagree with what you hear.
  • Try to make the other party see the importance of finding a resolution to the problem, highlighting the effects that conflict can have on the office atmosphere and productivity.
  • There may be times when you are faced with an individual who does not seem willing to resolve the conflict or you find it impossible to reach any sort of compromise or rebuild the working relationship.
  • If your work is being adversely affected by the situation, or it is seriously affecting others around you, it may be time to seek help from your HR department. HR staff may be able to offer valuable advice specific to your working environment or may use their own methods to help find a solution to the problem.

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