ONLINE GUIDE: 4 Impactful Strategies for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

Friction in the office is rarely seen as an opportunity to build better relationships but with these four ways to manage conflict in the workplace, you can help your employees become a stronger and more cohesive team.

When you have a group of high-performing employees who aren’t reaching their potential due to clashes in the office, you know you need strategies for conflict resolution in your workplace ASAP. But it’s not always as straightforward as sitting down with the two parties and telling them to work it out.

  • Lack of communication
  • Misunderstandings
  • Personality
  • Misperceptions and unconscious biases
  • Generational differences
  • 32% said that they think conflict results in low morale and more turnover
  • 30% of those surveyed believe conflict distracts from business opportunities
  • 1 out 4 employees said trying to avoid conflict results in illness or absences from work
  • Changing your team’s perception of conflict and differing opinions
  • Implementing four conflict resolution strategies in your workplace

Table of Contents

  • Part One: Identifying Conflict on Your Team
    3 Ways to Know If You Need to Manage Conflict in Your Workplace
  • Understand how to recognize common conflict behaviors
  • Speak with employees you suspect to be in disagreement
  • Determine the best course of action to take as a leader
  • Part Two: Turning Conflict into Growth Opportunities
    Better Manage Conflict in the Workplace by Changing Your Team’s Perception
  • Teach your employees not to fear ruffling feathers
  • Encourage healthy debates and disagreements
  • Use conflict as the basis for improvement
  • Part Three: Workplace Conflict Resolution Strategies
    4 Tactics to Manage Conflict and Reduce Tension Between Colleagues
  • Help your employees get to know each other outside of work
  • Define acceptable and productive conflict for your office
  • Ensure team members understand each other’s strengths
  • Improve processes that frequently result in frustrated employees

Part One: Identifying Conflict on Your Team

3 Ways to Know If You Need to Manage Conflict in Your Workplace

These are the first steps you should take before managing conflict in the workplace

  • Acting Inexplicably Angry — Employees who inappropriately erupt in anger for seemingly no reason are likely dealing with buried frustrations with a colleague or process.
  • Avoiding Others — Keep an eye on the everyday interactions of your employees. Should members of your team stop touching base with each other or avoid interacting in meetings, they could be dealing with an interpersonal conflict.
  • Withdrawing Themselves — When someone who was previously vocal in meetings or group huddles stops contributing, it’s time to dig deeper into what the issue may be. They could feel insecure speaking in front of a colleague they’re in conflict with or hope to avoid further friction.
  • This morning, you were quite angry when your laptop battery died during our pulse huddle. Why did that bother you so much?
  • You have been putting Tom down frequently when I’ve assigned him a task. Can you explain where that’s coming from?
  • You and Charlotte used to go for coffee all the time, but I’ve noticed that’s stopped. Is there a reason for that?
  • Lack of Communication — It can be easy to forget that not everyone in your organization will have all the same details you do but effective communication is essential in keeping harmony among teams and different departments. Regular meetings, email summaries, and lots of details can all help mitigate unnecessary conflict. You can further your team’s verbal and written communication skills with a training program like Clear Communication.
  • Misunderstandings — Perhaps your team member is unclear about the scope of a project or the expectations of their role. Whatever the misunderstanding is, communication is an actionable step you can take to iron out the conflict. You can also check out our blog post, 8 Performance Improvement Tips for Managing Underperforming Employees, for more advice on how to deal with a struggling team member.
  • Colleague Clashes — Not all employees will get along and that’s okay. They do, however, have to figure out how to work together. If warring personalities are getting in the way of your team’s productivity, you can try Positive Team Dynamics, a training program that can help you and your employees create a framework for what a successful group within your organization looks like.
  • Misperceptions — Due to unconscious biases, some members of your team may have a skewed idea of their coworkers. The best way to help employees better understand their colleagues is to get them out of the office and encourage them to get to know each other away from their work. Team building activities can provide a no-pressure, fun scenario that can help your team bond and see past their misperceptions. More on this in Part Three of this online guide.
  • Generational Differences — Discrepancies in age can play a large factor in employee conflict. This can include how work itself should be done, office attire, or even the formality of an email correspondence. Read our blog post, 3 Key Tactics for Creating a Multigenerational Company Culture, for advice on how to help your team thrive.
  • Personality — Not all colleagues have to be close personal friends. Try not to overreact if members of your team seem to always have conflicting opinions or perspectives. If they can be productive as a group, let them work through their differences on their own.
  • Heated Debates — If a couple of your employees are in the midst of a passionate workplace discussion, try not to immediately jump in. Innovative solutions may be bubbling just below the surface. Let the conversation continue, so long as it’s heading in a productive direction.

Part Two: Turning Conflict into Growth Opportunities

Better Manage Conflict in the Workplace by Changing Your Team’s Perception

Conflict has a negative connotation for many, but it can be a powerful tool if you approach it with positivity

  1. Open & Honest Employee Relationships — When employees are willing to openly disagree with one another, it leaves little room for them to harbor bad feelings towards their coworkers. Support your team in practicing honesty, with kindness.
  2. Improved Communication — A tense situation offers your team the opportunity to work on communicating their beliefs or ideas in a somewhat difficult environment, which can be much more effective than practicing in a low-stakes scenario.
  3. Roadblock Identification — If an employee is feeling frustrated with a coworker due to a process within your company, the conflict can help your leadership team recognize that there’s an organizational issue that you should improve or address.
  4. Opportunity for Self-Reflection — Getting into an argument with a colleague can present your team with the chance to reflect on their interpersonal skills. Encourage them to ask themselves if they could’ve handled a conflict differently, or if they think they could’ve avoided it altogether.
  1. Positive Intent — Motivate your employees to approach each debate or disagreement with a positive outlook. They should enter into all disagreements with the best of intentions and assume that their coworkers are doing the same. This can help keep conversations from getting too negative and encourage healthy debates. Learn more about supporting positive discussions in our blog post How to Create Healthy and Beneficial Workplace Competition.
  2. Always Be Improving — Support your team in using each conflict as an opportunity for improvement. You can encourage them to do this in multiple ways. For example, an employee could reflect on a disagreement with a colleague and recognize opportunities for change to a company process or as an individual.

Part Three: Workplace Conflict Resolution Strategies

4 Tactics to Manage Conflict and Reduce Tension Between Colleagues

If your team is experiencing frequent and intense disagreements, here are four conflict management strategies to help you settle almost any workplace issue

  • Hardware Harmony — In this activity, your employees will start out in different teams before coming together to put on a musical performance as one large group. Each participant will have the chance to use tools, parts, and hardware to create musical harmony.
  • Corporate Escape Rooms — Choose from two different themes, including Jewel Heist and The Mummy’s Curse, and work together to find hidden puzzles and clues before time runs out! Our escape room experiences were designed especially for corporate groups and can be set up in any room of your choosing.
  • Stay Positive — Always assume positive intent from both sides of any argument.
  • Move Forward — Avoid going in circles and repeating yourself; actively listen to your colleague.
  • Move On — Leave everything on the table, so once the discussion’s done, it’s over.
  • Remember the Goal — Finding a solution is more important than “being right” or “winning.”
  • Keep It Clean — Never resort to personal attacks of any kind.

Looking for Even More Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies?

If you’d like to learn more about our training programs that can help you improve your conflict resolution skills, just get in touch with our knowledgeable Employee Engagement Consultants.

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