Some form of conflict in the workplace is almost inevitable. Yet, this is exactly why learning to manage and address it tactfully is consistently seen as a vital skill. The process of resolving a conflict can be separated into three parts, each with a profound emphasis on communication.
Acknowledging and Defining the Problem
Without a good understanding of the problem at its outset, it’s impossible to expect any kind of satisfying resolution. A manager does well in this first stage to embark on even a very brief fact-finding foray in order to honestly evaluate the situation. Lightly questioning the employees involved, separately if possible, allows for more context on the issue.
Giving the employees a chance to voice their perception of the problem in their own words and emotions is also essential – and is an important step in acknowledging the problem’s existence. By respectfully defining the issue according to each party’s expressions, an employer can much more easily find the right course of action. They should never force their own intuition onto the situation.
Needs, Not Solutions
It’s tempting to address the problem as soon as possible, but a skilled manager looks for the needs of the employees before finding a solution. Achieving a basic understanding of the rationale behind employees’ proposed solutions, which themselves will often differ, gives the manager a better perspective to create a resolution that benefits all those involved.
Resolve and Follow Up
Lastly, of course, is the resolution itself. Based on their understanding of the situation, the manager should seek to have the involved employees agree on as much as possible with respect to the issue at hand. This can be as small as an agreement on some seemingly insignificant facet of the problem – in fact, any kind of agreement establishes a positive foundation for the solution.
It’s the employer’s responsibility to give out reasonable solutions and alternatives (it’s often useful to provide multiple), as well as to be the final vote on which action should be taken to resolve the issue. Ensuring that each employee is aware of and supports the decision is crucial to the success of its implementation. Follow-up appointments to check in are usually constructive too.