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December 18, 2018

Improve Your Conflict Resolution Skills

Conflict resolution, if left undone, can lead to cultural rifts in a workplace. Ideally, these discussions will leave teams better off than ever.

Three employees discuss something.

How do conflicts reach satisfactory resolutions?

Conflict resolution is one skill set every team leader or manager must possess and understand. Differences of opinion are inevitable in any workplace, and ignoring the issues that arise between employees generally makes things worse rather than better. Due to this inevitability, learning to mediate and bring teams together is a positive and worthwhile pursuit. Admitting there will be conflicts to resolve may seem like admitting defeat, but it’s actually a key to success.
The mark of a great mediator is the ability to resolve disagreements so the team emerges more confident and cohesive than ever before. Impartially considering clashing viewpoints, implementing a solution and then moving forward empowers organizations and gets everyone on the right track. Managers who learn this skill through specialized training are well-equipped to deliver results for their companies.

Embracing a Mediator’s Role

Stepping into uncomfortable situations and leading the team through are the hallmarks of a strong leader. In recent years, managers’ roles have been tied with the concept of positive company culture. As The Balance indicated, the atmosphere of a workplace will suffer if a leader lets conflict and disagreement fester for too long. While there’s no need to get involved in every day-to-day difference of opinion, the long-term and consequential issues between team members or groups should be resolved quickly through direct intervention.
The effects of a lasting conflict can be wide-reaching. The Balance added when there a disagreement in an office, even employees not involved will still be impacted. When the issues at play are important and foundational to the organization, workers of all levels could be tempted to take sides, thus putting greater pressure on everyone involved. To stop issues reaching such a point, managers must mediate.

Being Effective in Defusing Conflict

While making the decision to resolve interpersonal issues is step one, good intentions alone can’t make employees get along. Inc. contributor Robin Camarote gave a few suggestions for leaders negotiating discussions between disagreeing parties. For instance, leaders should direct the discussion through questions rather than speeches or platitudes. When managers make statements, employees may feel the authority figures are taking one side or not considering all perspectives. Meaningful questions clarify the motives behind a conversation.
The process of mediation escalates from simple questions about the facts of the issue to more complex questions involving foundational issues at work, as well as possible paths to resolution. Camarote recommended speaking to each disagreeing employee individually at first to ascertain the details of the conflicting perspectives. Ideally, through the course of the negotiation, the workers will see the issue from one another’s perspective and come to an agreement.
While this process is relatively straightforward, it is not something every manager or leader knows. It’s tempting to view conflict resolution as a skill someone either has or doesn’t have, but it can actually be taught. Camarote noted today’s workplaces simply have a lack of relevant training and coaching.

A manager speaks with two unhappy employees.What does it take to bring conflict to a satisfactory conclusion?

Staying Engaged in Solutions

Just as managers may hesitate to get involved in a conflict in the first place, they may also wish to withdraw from the situation after the initial discussions are resolved. As Forbes Coaches Council’s Rick Gibbs pointed out, however, there is a continuing role for mediators after employees have gone through the first round of conversations and meetings around their disagreements. The solutions and next steps decided upon can and should bring lasting change to an organization, and it’s a manager’s job to keep the process going.
Checking back in with everyone who was involved in the conflict is a major priority for managers, according to Gibbs. These additional meetings are important for the continuing health of the workplace, as they ensure the conflict hasn’t resurfaced and determine whether the solutions proposed has actually been adopted by all parties.
Since conflict resolution is so closely tied to workplace culture, resolving employee problems in a timely manner should come relatively naturally. Meetings with workers don’t have to be solely focused on the disagreements they’ve engaged in. Conflict resolution can become a way to launch more detailed and frequent check-ups on morale, as Gibbs suggested.

Training to Improve Skills

While conflict resolution falls into the category of soft skills rather than more technical abilities, it can be learned and practiced. Numerous courses aimed at managers in various departmental roles and levels of authority can help them improve their respective approaches to workplace negotiation.
Having the ability to defuse harmful disagreements is a valuable piece for a managerial toolkit. Overall organizational leaders have ample reason to invest in this type of training for their team leaders: The benefits of having trained and effective resolution experts in the workforce can be long-lasting and far-reaching. Those managers should also be glad to receive this type of instruction, as their new abilities may help them improve team performance and rise through the ranks.

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