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Workplace Conflict Resolution – 3 Quick Tips to Help Put Out Fires

You may dislike handling conflict, and at work there are so many opportunities for conflict to arise. In a multi-cultural, as well as multi-generational setting miscommunication and misunderstandings are bound to arise.  How you handle them can make or break your organization.


The best way to conquer your fear of dealing with workplace conflict is to begin to master the skills for resolving them.  Let’s face it, difficult people exist everywhere, and conflict resolution in business is inevitable. The workplace provides many situations in which there is an opportunity for misunderstandings, improper communications and dialogue.  Workplace conflict resolution,  then, must have a goal to create better communication.  You may not always be able to generate agreement, but with ongoing and facilitated communication between conflicting parties, many would-be destructive topics can be turned into constructive discussions, and co-strategizing mutually agreeable solutions.

Here are three quick tips which scratch the surface, but will assist you in taking on this challenge by dipping your toe in the water:

  1. Timing is everything!  Strange as it may seem, being on neutral turf does make a difference.  Find a meeting location and time that works for both parties.  Make it private and quiet whenever possible, and facilitate open discussion, making sure not to allow hot heads to run wild with their opinions.  Great phrases to consider that assist participants in opening up to other ideas might be:a. I wonder if__________?

    b. I understand what you’re saying about ____________ AND (use of and instead of BUT is important.  It allows for their point of view whereas BUT negates it)

    c. What might be a good compromise to __________?

    d. Would you consider ______________?

    e. How close are we to an agreement about _________?

  2. If you dwell on the facts it will help diffuse the situation.  When managers focus on people’s feelings there is no win, but when they build a strong case vis-à-vis evidence and examples it creates a credible position.  Acknowledge how people may be feeling, let them know you understand, and then let them know the facts that you found to assist them in bridging the gap from emotion to logic.
  3. 3. Clarify, clarify, and clarify again.  Communication will always be the culprit you can point to when there are misunderstandings and conflict.  Verify from each party that they really do understand what the other is saying specifically through active listening skills.  In active listening one party states their position without emotion.  The other repeats back specifically what he or she heard, also without comment, rebuttle or emotion.  If the first party needs to further clarify for understanding that’s fine, but make sure the other party actively repeats that back to them too.  If all are nodding in agreement then switch roles so that each party gets their full “set of cards” on the table without argument, and the issues are clear.  Clairifcation is a very important starting point to both home and workplace conflict resolution.  Often conflicting parties will assume things that aren’t so.  Clarification prevents misunderstandings that further complicate negotiations.

Remember, while conflict isn’t always easy to resolve, keeping these tips in mind will make it easier, and with practice, your ability to facilitate between antagonistic parties through clarification and appropriate discussions will increase.  Here is a resource that may help.

Workplace Conflict Resolution – 3 Quick Tips to Help Put Out Fires

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