5 Steps for Resolving Workplace Conflicts

Most of us live our daily lives trying to avoid conflict to some degree. The bad news for non-confrontational people is that conflict is almost inevitable, especially in the workplace. When you’re spending hours every day with the same people and navigating an organizational hierarchy, misunderstandings, frustrations, and outright hostility can easily brew. One study on workplace conflict revealed that the average worker spends 2.1 hours every week dealing with conflicts, amounting to $359 billion in lost productivity each year. Think about how many people work at your office. How many hours are you losing a week?


It’s not possible to completely eliminate workplace conflicts, but it is possible to resolve them more quickly and effectively, and prevent many potential conflicts from occurring in the first place. It doesn’t have to be hard! It’s easy to overcome conflict if you know the proper methods for mediation. If your office is having trouble resolving conflicts that arise, it’s important to learn more about mediation’s role in the workplace and the 5 steps to make the process go more smoothly.


Conflicts and Mediation

Work conflicts can happen for many different reasons. Differences of opinion over how a project should be handled, unfairness over resource allocation, personality conflicts—the list goes on. The common denominator, of course, is that conflict can result in distraction, bad feelings, and worse. Employing mediation can help to reduce the impact of conflict and help everyone resolve their differences.


Mediation is the process of a third neutral party helping the two parties involved in a conflict to work out a mutually-beneficial resolution. A mediator’s job is to collect as much information as possible and help ensure both parties are treated fairly. Effective mediation can prevent a lot of bad feelings and resentment, which is why it is such an effective tool in the workplace. Even if you don’t have a mediator, you can use the following 5 steps to help resolve conflicts you’re involved with, or as a neutral third party.


1. Be willing to hear alternative perspectives and be open to others’ views

Most conflict is created in our minds and with our interpretations, not in reality. By remaining open to alternative perspectives, you can gather all the information you need as objectively as possible, and see where the other person is coming from.


2. Seek information from all sides to develop an opinion

You can’t develop an opinion until you have all the information. While you might not get “the facts” because each party will be emotionally involved in the conflict, you do need to gather as much information as you can from all sides in order to develop an opinion. Having an opinion that is based on information from all sides will help to create a better resolution.


3. Provide internal resources for employees

HR can help to mediate many conflicts, but you may want to provide even more resources for employees. If a conflict is causing problems in the office, or if multiple conflicts have been breaking out, it may be a necessary to bring in a coach or counselor to help. Counseling helps people to understand one another, and counselors know what kinds of questions to ask to help people overcome their differences.


4. Emphasize clear communication

In many cases, conflict can be avoided or cleared up quickly with better communication. Today, offices often use digital tools like chat programs and emails to communicate, rather than relying on face-to-face interactions. Meaning can be misinterpreted easily under these circumstances, leading to conflict. Encourage employees to communicate face-to-face, and consider educating your employees on how to communicate and empathize with others.


5. Encourage mindfulness in online and social interactions

It’s easier for us to be hostile and hurtful when we don’t have to see the other person’s reaction. With the increase in online communications, conflicts can increase. While offices are not anonymous, cyberbullying can still occur, and people can be victimized by multiple colleagues. Mindfulness can improve the work environment and, improve interactions online and off. People who are being bullied by their peers often don’t want to talk about it. Cyberbullying victims are 2 to 9 times more likely to contemplate suicide. Encouraging positive attitudes and good mental health can help.


Making Conflict Resolution Easy

Resolving conflicts can be easy with congruency and good communication. Poor communication is at the root of many workplace issues and interpersonal relationships. Since many people are not naturally good communicators, it is important to give them the tools, resources, and mediation strategies they need to succeed in workplace conflict resolution.


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