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Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Published January 19, 2023 (last updated on June 26, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


People spend majority of their time at work and around their colleagues. At some point in their workplace, they will experience conflict. Conflict in the workplace can arise as people work with colleagues and professionals from different backgrounds and perspectives. Conflict in the workplace can lead to frustration and stress among peers and colleagues. It can be tricky to manage conflict and it can lead to tension within the office. As an employer or business owner, it becomes your responsibility to effectively manage and de-escalate the conflict.

Whether the conflict is present between employees or yourself and an employee, understanding how best to de-escalate and solve the issue is key. Establishing conflict management systems in a business is crucial since it helps reduce it from progressing. Before we figure how to de-escalate conflict, let us understand the different types of conflict.

Types of conflict

  • Interpersonal – It can be about anything under the sun, from a disorganised desk, personal matters, or someone stealing a sandwich from the office refrigerator.

  • Leadership – A clash of ideals in the day-to-day management of the workplace.

  • Interdependence – The conflict when one person’s job or duties hinge on the completion of another’s

  • Work style differences – Everyone works differently. Some work fast, some slow; when these two work styles clash, it can lead to conflict.

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5 tips employers can follow to de-escalate conflict

1. Listen to all points of view and find the facts

Speak to each person involved independently and privately. Use these meetings to understand concerns and the underlying reason for the conflict. Define the source of the argument or misunderstanding. You should also ensure you remain neutral and objective while listening to each side of the argument.

2Work with the employee to solve the problem

Invite the employee to share their thoughts on how the conflict should be resolved. More often than not, they will have a solution in mind that they would be happy to implement. Create a safe space for the employee to share their concerns.

3Is the conflict bullying or harassment?

Whilst most workplace conflicts are a result of misunderstanding or personality clashes, some conflicts may be far more serious. Everyone has a right to not be bullied or harassed at work, and there are anti-bullying laws that prohibit this. Your business should have bullying or harassment policies in place to protect employees.

4Work to build a united team

Team building days or activities can promote a feeling of unity within your team and bring your staff members together. This will allow your staff to learn more about each other’s personalities. By engaging in team-building activities, you allow your staff to build trust and respect for each other.

5. Find a way forward, not establishing fault

Making character attacks is one of the quickest ways to destroy any relationship. Resolve any dispute with practical steps forward rather than escalating it and making it worse. As a business owner, you should remain tactful and offer constructive feedback instead of dividing blame.

For small businesses without HR departments, mediation may prove an effective solution for an ugly dispute. The process involves an independent mediator helping two or more parties come to a mutual understanding as to how they can work better in the future.

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