Tips for conflict resolution in the workplace. Ways leaders can help create a healthy organizational culture.
We all value great relationships. When we disagree, things don’t feel so great. But conflict is to be expected. It’s a normal part of relationships and organizations. Here are some guidelines that can help us resolve conflict in a constructive way . . . and ultimately create a healthy organizational culture.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION: PREVENT CONFLICT BEFORE IT BEGINS
- Keep short accounts: Each time we interact with another person we either make a deposit or a withdrawal from our relational account with them. Deposits come from caring or helping someone. Withdrawals happen when there are betrayals, dishonesty or uncaring actions. Keeping short accounts mean that we are aware of where we stand with others . . . and commit to keeping a positive balance in our relational accounts with them. Further, we agree (mutually, in advance) that when concerns arise, we will share those concerns directly with the other person. This creates a safe place for people to solve problems. It fosters mutual respect and prevents offenses from piling up.
- Set up systems for ongoing communication: Many times conflict comes from a lack of communication . . . because there is no regular forum to go over things. Set up regular times to meet with your teammates. Discuss future happenings, review current plans and possible challenges. Having a system increases communication and greatly reduces the chances of relational problems.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION: HOW TO HANDLE CONFLICT WHEN IT HAPPENS
- First, go directly to the person in private. Say that you have a concern and ask for their permission to discuss it. Calmly and directly dialog about the issue and how it affects you and the organization. Separate the problem from the person. Review the facts first to ensure you both understand what has happened. Brainstorm solutions and agree on one that works for everybody. It takes courage to have these conversations. However, being direct is what solves most problems. More than anything this is what “keeps the air clear”.
- If the direct approach fails, it’s time to involve another person. Talk things over with your supervisor or a trusted senior leader. Remember, the organization can’t help you solve a problem if it doesn’t know the problem exists.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION: WHAT NOT TO DO – AVOID THESE RELATIONSHIP BREAKERS
- Don’t approach someone in anger. Give yourself a few hours to calm down and collect your thoughts.
- Don’t ignore conflict. Trouble only intensifies when it is ignored. Resolve problems on the same day that they happen, if possible.
- Don’t “triangulate” by asking another person to solve your problem before you try. As mentioned before, go directly to the individual with which you have the challenge. On the flip-side . . . If someone asks you to solve their problem, first ask if they have gone directly to the individual with whom there is a problem. If they have not, send them to that individual before getting involved yourself.
- Don’t “forum shop”. Avoid bringing your problem to several people hoping one will give you an easy way out.
- Don’t gossip.
- Don’t air your concern in social media.
- Don’t collect offenses. With time, an unresolved conflict becomes a grudge. With still more time, the details of that grudge become forgotten and only the ill will remains. At that point it is very difficult to reconcile a relationship.
As leaders, we are to encourage a culture where people fight for relationship. One of the best ways to encourage relationship among your team is to promote healthy conflict resolution. It’s worth the effort!
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CONFLICT RESOLUTION TIPS ON VIDEO
This is a great teaching that I use as part of our staff training: