Conflict resolution in the workplace

Wherever you work, one fact is consistent: each personality is different and from time to time, there will be inevitable differences of opinion. And these differences may lead to conflict.

Because opinions vary, there is no winning in taking sides, since each person will automatically opine that he or she is right in an argument. But, accept it: conflict is real. This is where the art of negotiation is critical to conflict resolution.

In this article, I share a few tips on how to deal with workplace friction.

What causes conflict? As mentioned, different personalities may simply rub one another the wrong way, egos, jealousy, lack of proper remuneration, competition…or someone may be having a bad day!

Unfortunately, not every employee is on the same level of maturity and this makes conflict even more heated in certain cases.

Those who would have worked with me would know that I always maintain that communication is key. Proper communication helps in every scenario, no matter what the conflict.

However, that is dependent on the existence of two reasonable parties within the scenario. So, how does one deal with an unreasonable employee? (Let’s face it, though: difficult employees need to be monitored!) Clear, concise, accurate and timely communication must be presented in any interface with employees who have grievances.

It’s also vital to ensure that as a mediator, emotions are not allowed to rule the proceedings. I’ve seen shrewd, sharp executives be led by emotion; and everyone in the room noticed it. Everyone except the otherwise brilliant executive.

This can actually lead to a worsened case instead of working towards rectifying or repairing it. I’ve also seen employees act out in rage, with one even cursing a CEO. Thankfully, the CEO was a man of mercy!

Remember that everyone works at the same station: WIIFM. Yep, What’s In It For Me is the main concern of everyone except the non-existent altruist. This is why it is essential to understand the expectation of each party going into the discussions.

When conflict is approached with the perspective of trying to help persons best achieve their needs or goals, this is when few obstacles should stand in your way.

And most of all, learn from the conflict. Think about each conflict you’ve had in the past. If you look carefully enough, there is always a lesson somewhere between the elements.

I’ve learnt so much from conflict and conflict resolution. Some of which I’ve listed already, but one important lesson I’ve learnt is that timing is important. Not rushing the discussions, ensuring that the discussions are uninterrupted and that a decision or agreement is not always reached on the same day are some of the most critical points in conflict resolution.

Timing – in life, as in conflict – is everything!

Source: (Veoma Ali is an Advertising Executive, with a Ph.D in Communications and a Master’s in Business Administration)

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