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Strategies for Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

written by: •edited by: Rebecca Scudder•updated: 8/28/2010

If you have at least two employees, expect some conflict from time to time. What are the best strategies for conflict resolution in the workplace? Should you let them battle it out on their own or put a process in place? Jean Scheid, an HR expert, tells us how to handle workplace conflict.

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    Stop Touching My Stuff!

    Conflict by Morgue File Dealing with conflict resolution in the workplace can be a tricky situation, especially in the ever-changing culture of the workplace. Every individual has a different personality and looks at their job and life differently than the next guy. Beyond personality conflicts, you may have disagreements about duties, tasks, how a process should be completed or conflict between team members.

    Employees can be jealous of another’s status or position. Conflict in the workplace can stem from individuals who feel they are underpaid compared to co-workers or are assigned more work than another.

    As an employer, you can be prepared for conflict resolution in the workplace by following a policy and educating your employees on what is really workplace conflict and what is not.

    If you, as the leader, don't learn how to strategize and handle conflict, you really will spend most of your day "babysitting" your staff!

    Image Credit (Morgue File)

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    Defining & Dealing With Conflict

    One method to steer clear of when dealing with conflict resolution in the workplace is to think that an employee suggestion box is the best way to deal with feuds or conflicts. A leader must be able to define what a conflict is and what it is not and, if it’s detrimental to the day-to-day operations of the business or department.

    The conflict resolution policy I have in place at my business is relatively simple in nature. I have 4 managers and each manager has numerous employees they supervise. If an employee has a work conflict, whether it’s with a co-worker or a company policy, they can’t just run to me (the owner).

    Instead, I’ve empowered my managers, who I trust, to try and get the parties together to resolve the conflict first. Managers must take detailed notes on the problem and offer a determination on how the conflict will be handled.

    If the conflict remains, the person(s) who brought the problem to the manager must again speak to the manager, who will in turn speak to me. I then read the notes taken and solutions offered by the manager and speak to all parties involved to see how the conflict can be resolved.

    A business owner or department manager must also be able to define conflict and convey what it really means effectively to all employees.

    Conflict is not about the dislike of the color of a co-workers hair or the vehicle they drive. Conflict should never be about office gossip, and managers and owners should be able to determine who does not work well with others and needs a little employee mentoring or coaching.

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    Handling Real Conflict

    Conductor Beyond the simple plan I use for conflict resolution at the workplace, a good leader must know how to handle real conflict.

    • Company Policy – If anyone consistently is complaining about a company policy they don’t feel is fair, you must speak to the person and help them understand the policy and why it must be equal across the board.
    • Legal Conflict – As the leader, you must be able to handle conflicts that could turn into legal matters such as discrimination or sexual harassment complaints.
    • Co-Worker Conflict – If two co-workers are unable to work side-by-side but both do their jobs well, consider moving one of them to another area—it really can be just that simple.
    • Project Conflicts – If during a team project, conflicts arise on how to proceed, you should have created a risk management plan in the project planning phase.

    The biggest thing leaders miss when dealing with conflict resolution in the workplace is the ability to be fair to one and all and learning when to compromise. Talk to three different leaders about their workplace environment on how they deal with conflict and you’ll get three different answers.

    The best way to deal with interoffice conflict is to have a set policy that everyone is aware of and has access to, and empower your managers and supervisors to try and deal with the conflict first. Ultimately, however, workplace conflict that goes unresolved will fall into your lap, so if you’re lacking in this area, do brush up on your conflict resolution skills.

    Image Credit (Wikimedia Commons)