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Resolving Workplace Conflict

As in any relationship, conflicts will arise between coworkers. Common sources of conflict include competition for resources, differences of opinion about how to do something, misunderstandings over responsibilities and/or scope of authority, missed expectations, personality differences, and more. Intellectually, we recognize that conflict can be healthy, but when we are in the middle of it, we may lose perspective. When an employee or co-worker rushes in with their hair on fire, it’s hard at times not to become ignited ourselves and act out of emotion.

Whether we are functioning in a leadership capacity or as a friend and coworker, there are steps that we can take to help find a solution that benefits the parties involved and the organization overall:

  1. 1.  Acknowledge the elephant in the room. Conflicts do not just go away. They may go dormant, but if a different triggering event occurs, all of the past ill feelings will arise again. So, handle the problem immediately. The sooner the conflict is discussed and resolved, the sooner relationships can be mended, teamwork can be restored, and the team can benefit from the experience.
  2. 2.  Unplug the emotions. If the parties are emotionally charged, they won’t listen to the other point of view. Encourage the parties to acknowledge their anger, frustration, disappointment, betrayal, or whatever emotion is fueling the conflict. Talk about it. Stay calm.
  3. 3.  Practice active listening and encourage all parties to do the same. This means you acknowledge feelings, your paraphrase what is being said so that everyone knows that you are listening and understand. Ask for confirmation that you are properly acknowledging the major issues. Encourage all parties to engage and present their point of view, but don’t let one side dominate the conversation. Be respectful, but be firm in upholding the ground rules.
  4. 4.  Seek the root cause. To truly resolve a conflict, it’s essential that you be patient and persistent enough to fine the root cause. It is not enough to extinguish a blaze that continues to smolder.
  5. 5.  Resolving conflict is not about finding who’s at fault. It’s about finding lasting solutions that will remove the ill-will that has arisen. Often compromise is necessary, but the resolution needs to be considered acceptable to the affected parties.
  6. 6.  Realize that not everything can be solved immediately, or with the most beneficial results.  Sometimes you have to agree to disagree, but that also means you have to learn to move past the problem. Just like in a marriage, you must sometimes compromise and work together in spite of a disagreement.

When you spend extended hours with people, conflict is inevitable. It is difficult to be engaged and committed to common goals if disagreements are not resolved. Conflicts should be resolved promptly at the level nearest the issue. Sometimes, another option from an objective third party is needed. This is the role of Human Resources. The function of HR is to facilitate organizational effectiveness and to advocate for all levels of employees and the companies best interests.

--- Joel Myers, The Centre Group

Posted: 12/3/2014 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: business, conflict, employees, fight, office, small, work, workplace

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Your business may be small, but that doesn't mean that your impact can't be huge! The Greater Memphis Chamber's Small Business Council serves to encourage, support, recognize and be a resource to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Memphis area. Here, our talented panel of contributors will present big ideas that could make a huge difference to your small business. And don't be afraid to ask questions ... no matter how small.

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