Conflict is a normal phenomenon among human beings, and it happens every day among friends, family members and coworkers. When people spend time together, it is inevitable that at some point, they are going to disagree, have different ideas or strong opinions that oppose those of someone else.
Because employees spend so many hours together in the workplace, conflict is bound to happen. It can also lead to a lot of emotions — frustration, sadness, anger, and embarrassment — that can interfere with your staff's work routine.
It is not always possible to prevent conflict among coworkers. Sometimes it can be productive. People from varying backgrounds and life experiences bring unique perspectives to the workplace. They have different ways of thinking and problem-solving. In a healthy work environment, employees collaborate on ideas and objectives, bringing together their ideas to accomplish goals. If conflict leads to creative problem-solving, it helps your business.
When disputes become harsh or unproductive, it's necessary to address and find ways to resolve them to avoid hindering your company's morale or productivity. Here are six steps to dealing with conflict quickly.
1. Acknowledge the Conflict
When a dispute arises, don't try to pretend it didn't happen. Avoiding the conflict can lead to worsening hostility or hurt feelings. Acknowledge that there is a situation — and the sooner you acknowledge it, the sooner you can find a solution.
If the conflict is between staff members, you can encourage them to work it out themselves. If you disagree with an employee, take the opportunity to set a good incident management example by addressing the problem straightforwardly.
2. Define the Source of Conflict
Clarifying the reason for the conflict is the first step to finding a resolution. Check with both parties to find out what they believe the source of the problem is and how it became an issue in the first place. Try to get as much information as you can about the issue's details. When both sides concede on the disagreement, ask them what they need to find a resolution.
Say, for example, sales team members disagree on a new sales strategy. Some are eager to implement it, while others believe it will hurt their ability to attract new customers. Instead of working as a team, people take sides. Both sides want to avoid a negative impact on the bottom line, but they disagree on the method.
3. Meet Privately
The best way to get both sides to talk openly is to provide a safe, quiet meeting place where there will be limited, if any, interruptions. Ensure both parties have the opportunity to speak freely and be heard. Neither party should be allowed to monopolize the discussion. Also, make sure everyone remembers that now is not the time for blame or character attacks — the meeting is about how each party feels about the situation. Remind both parties to listen actively, not reactively, to the other side to gain understanding. Ask clarifying questions when necessary.
Once both parties discuss their feelings about the new sales strategy, it becomes clear that those who oppose the new process have tried similar methods before only to see them hurt the bottom line. Those who are ready to try the new strategy think the timing is right to use a different sales approach.
4. Investigate the Claims
Once everyone has aired out their feelings, it's time to dig deeper into the situation. Ask other parties involved, if any, for more information and gain as much knowledge of alleged incidents as you can. Speak privately with each side if necessary to clear up unanswered questions.
5. Find Ways to a Resolution
Amidst the many negative points that are sure to come up, you can work to find positive solutions. There needs to be a common goal for the conflict to end. If possible, find points of agreement and highlight them. When the conflicting parties can find common ground, they can build trust and work together to find a resolution.
The sales team can resolve its conflict by implementing parts of the new sales strategy that show promise without abandoning previous sales methods. Neither party loses the ability to use trusted methods, and the new process can be field-tested.
6. Determine Each Party's Responsibilities
In the workplace, employees have one common goal: to meet the company's objectives. Once you have found a point of resolution, both parties fulfill obligations that create the solution and work toward the company's goals. Ideally, the answer includes common ground that both sides agree on.
All sales team members want sales to increase. They can agree to test methods they didn't choose but are willing to try. In a few months, the team can reconvene and evaluate which methods are increasing sales.
Conflict resolution can be uncomfortable at times, but it doesn't have to interfere with your productivity. The process of settling problems can help both parties come to an agreement and work together again.