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Top Tips for Managing Conflict

Top Tips for Managing Conflict in the Workplace

Prevention and intervention are your two main aims for managing conflict. Here are our top tips that supervisors and managers should follow to keep confrontational behaviour in check and keep the team working efficiently.

managing conflict in the workplace

Our top 10 tips for managing conflict are:

  1. Do a conflict risk assessment – this helps you think about every situation and determine what preventative or corrective measures are needed. Observe people’s behaviour and look for signs of conflict on a regular basis.
  2. Don’t ignore it – conflicts do not just disappear if you push them aside; issues become harder to tackle the longer you leave them. Deal with the problem as soon as you learn about it before it has a chance to escalate into something serious.
  3. Put in place an ‘open door’ policy – confrontations may not be reported if you don’t appear approachable or if employees worry they won’t be taken seriously. Encourage employees to come talk whenever they need to.
  4. Promote differences – adopt a positive culture towards differing opinions, lifestyles, and attitudes. If people see that discriminatory behaviour is not acceptable and is disciplined, they’ll be less likely to do it. Make this clear through your conflict management policy.
  5. Become a mediator – either you or another manager or supervisor should take training to be a mediator. This means that should a conflict break out, there’s someone in charge of bringing people together to listen to each side of the story and reach a solution as a group.
  6. Provide support and resources – e.g. certain forms of information or tools that suit a person’s style of working. This enables them to work their best and cooperate well with others. Do so on an ongoing basis – tasks change; so will the required tools. Regularly ask employees if they need anything and encourage them to submit requests.
  7. Learn to listen actively – good listening skills are essential for resolving conflicts. Eliminate distractions, don’t listen with pre-conceived ideas, ask questions, and ensure you truly listen to what others are telling you. Encourage others to do the same.
  8. Stay calm and in control – take a deep breath, mentally remove yourself from the situation, and don’t argue back or become aggressive. Put safety first: don’t give people opportunity to become invasive or violent. Remember, as a manager or supervisor you’re setting an example for the rest of your team.
  9. Attack the problem, not the person – one thing you cannot change is the fact that people have different perspectives and opinions, so do not criticise them. Instead, focus on identifying the cause of the conflict, promote tolerance and understanding, and aim to reach a solution or compromise.
  10. Be supportive – encourage employees who have certain knowledge and skills to help those colleagues who might not have these abilities, and do so yourself. Treat each person as an individual; don’t make judgements. And lastly, allow for any suitable arrangements if necessary so that people can carry out their work safely and happily.

5 Conflict Resolution Strategies We All Use

Conflict Resolution Strategies

People deal with conflict in a variety of ways, therefore you need different conflict resolution strategies.

Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann developed five conflict resolution strategies that people use to handle conflict, including avoiding, defeating, compromising, accommodating, and collaborating.

This is based on the assumption that people choose how cooperative and how assertive to be in a conflict. It suggests that everyone has preferred ways of responding to conflict, but most of us use all methods under various circumstances. It is helpful to understand the five methods, particularly when you want to move a group forward.

Conflict Resolution Strategy #1: Avoiding

Avoiding is when people just ignore or withdraw from the conflict. They choose this method when the discomfort of confrontation exceeds the potential reward of resolution of the conflict. While this might seem easy to accommodate for the facilitator, people aren’t really contributing anything of value to the conversation and may be withholding worthwhile ideas. When conflict is avoided, nothing is resolved.

Conflict Resolution Strategy #2: Competing

Competing is used by people who go into a conflict planning to win. They’re assertive and not cooperative. This method is characterized by the assumption that one side wins and everyone else loses. It doesn’t allow room for diverse perspectives into a well informed total picture. Competing might work in sports or war, but it’s rarely a good strategy for group problem solving.

Debra wrote an illuminating article on how conflict resolution failure can lead to revolution. It’s what can happen when people feel like they aren’t being listened to and start being assertive.

Conflict Resolution Strategy #3: Accommodating

Accommodating is a strategy where one party gives in to the wishes or demands of another. They’re being cooperative but not assertive. This may appear to be a gracious way to give in when one figures out s/he has been wrong about an argument. It’s less helpful when one party accommodates another merely to preserve harmony or to avoid disruption. Like avoidance, it can result in unresolved issues. Too much accommodation can result in groups where the most assertive parties commandeer the process and take control of most conversations.

Conflict Resolution Strategy #4: Collaborating

Collaborating is the method used when people are both assertive and cooperative. A group may learn to allow each participant to make a contribution with the possibility of co-creating a shared solution that everyone can support.

A great way to collaborate and overcome conflict is to reach out and touch them.

Conflict Resolution Strategy #5: Compromising

Another strategy is compromising, where participants are partially assertive and cooperative. The concept is that everyone gives up a little bit of what they want, and no one gets everything they want. The perception of the best outcome when working by compromise is that which “splits the difference.” Compromise is perceived as being fair, even if no one is particularly happy with the final outcome.

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