Whenever you have a group of people working together, there can be conflict. Maybe it’s a small disagreement over a minor issue … or it could be large, direction-changing argument that challenges the ability of the group to move forward. We’re people, flawed in how we communicate and get along. A Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) study found that as much as 35 percent of workers have experienced bullying or conflict.
Regardless of how big or little the conflict is, good leaders know what it takes to bring about a resolution and help everyone move forward productively. If you’re interested in being one of those peacemakers and learning how to manage interpersonal workplace conflicts, a conflict management degree can help you become a valuable asset to any organization.
Here are five tips to start improving your conflict resolution skills:
Tip 1. Actively listen to everyone involved before proposing a solution
It’s tempting to allow interpersonal conflicts to derail the progress of a team. Particularly if the conflict stalls progress on a project, feelings of anger and resentment can quickly set in. Instead, those who understand how to manage interpersonal conflict productively know that there are positive features to be found in any conflict.
Any time you have a group of people working on a common project, particularly when they feel pressure to succeed, conflicts will arise. Different opinions make it inevitable. To find the benefit to these conflicts requires giving everyone the space they need to air their grievances and communicate about the issue. Everyone involved in the discussion needs to feel heard.
During this discussion, all members should use active listening and ‘I’ statements. During active listening, people repeat back what they hear others expressing, affirming that they understand their position well. ‘I’ statements then allow members to communicate their ideas effectively. With an ‘I’ statement, the person phrases what they want to say based on their own experience, rather than trying to place blame on others. This helps to reduce defensiveness in the conversation and makes it easier for people to move forward in their resolution.
Use the conflict and this resulting conversation as an opportunity to nurture a healthy workplace that gives space for people to disagree. When team members know that they can freely share their ideas and openly resolve any conflicts that might arise, it encourages them to think outside the proverbial box, which leads to a greater flow of creative ideas.
When disagreements are structured this way, conflict provides team leaders with excellent opportunities to improve communication within the group and how the team functions together.
Tip 2. Assume the other members of the team mean well
When faced with a conflict, many people fall into the mistake of wondering what drives someone to disagree with them so strongly. They feel that their ideas are superior and get frustrated that other people do not recognize this.
To improve conflict resolution, however, everyone involved should make a habit of assuming positive intentions on behalf of everyone else. Trusting that your team members want to succeed in the project as well will make it easier for you to keep an open mind about their ideas during the discussion.
When both parties enter the discussion with an open mind, resolutions become significantly easier to reach. People feel less inclined to dig in their heels because they find themselves with greater trust for the other person.
Tip 3. Consider overlooking a smaller battle to achieve long-term goals
Team members who understand how to thrive in the workplace know that sometimes people have to ‘let’ the smaller disagreements go in favor of guiding the group towards the desired end game.
People want to feel as though others hear them and understand their ideas and problems. When their teammates do not appear to listen to their ideas or enact any of their suggestions, it becomes more and more likely that they will begin to withdraw and make it harder to reach the team’s long-term goals.
Effective team leaders recognize that backing down on a lesser issue will move the team to the preferred end result. Allowing other members of the team to influence the outcome in smaller disagreements will make them more amenable to listening to what you have to say in future conflicts. Be mindful of the final desired outcome, sacrifice the smaller battle as long as it doesn’t lead the team away from the goal.
Tip 4. Think about how to address the issue best
Those who excel in interpersonal conflict also understand that not every disagreement can be resolved the same way. Conflicts that impact entire groups may require an open conversation so that everyone can express their ideas, as described above. Communicating in person also allows people to see each other’s body language. This will help them enhance their communication skills and make it easier to feel empathy for the other person.
On the other hand, if a conflict arises between two people, addressing the disagreement in public may not be the way to go. A private meeting can be helpful. No one wants to feel as though they are on display— it can make people feel self-conscious and defensive if they think that other people are judging their ideas and arguments. Keeping these conversations private allows members to express ideas with confidence and minimize defensiveness.
Tip 5. Do not hold grudges and work as a team
Workplace conflict is inevitable. People will have different opinions about how to accomplish different goals, and eventually, someone’s idea will dominate the others.
One cornerstone to workplace peace, however, involves not holding a grudge. Grudges make it easier to feel annoyed with a particular person in the future. They make people feel critical of the ideas the other person puts forth and make them less likely to examine them with an open mind.
Instead, everyone involved in the disagreement must consciously place their grudges to the side for the good of the group. This will make it easier to think with a clear head and make the best possible decisions for the team.
Workplace conflict will eventually arise in nearly any situation. Those who understand how to resolve these struggles will be well-equipped to lead their team to success. That is why we offer conflict resolution certificates as well as our Conflict and Resolution program. Come learn more about brokering good discussions and guiding teams towards successful solutions at ACU Online. Give us a call today at 855-219-7300 or visit acu.edu/online for more information.