Conflict Resolution Techniques: Resolving Disputes in the Workplace

conflict resolution techniquesConflict is an inevitable part of life. Without differing ideas, opinions and beliefs, nothing would ever change. Although conflict in the workplace is often unavoidable, it can be a progressive aspect of any company culture. The trick is knowing how to deal with conflict in a way that encourages healthy changes; by understanding proper conflict resolution techniques, all parties can come to a peaceful agreement.

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Different Types of Conflict

In the workplace, you will commonly see four different types of conflict. While this doesn’t sum up every conflict you may experience, these are four types that are commonly seen no matter what industry you work in.

  • Personal Conflict: While you should keep your personal conflicts out of the office, sometimes it is necessary to solve them in order to effectively do your job. Clashes in personality and individual beliefs between coworkers can negatively affect the overall productivity of an office, so it’s important to deal with personal issues before they cause further problems.
  • Business Conflict: Even if you get along with your coworkers swimmingly, chances are you won’t always see eye to eye on business decisions. Try to keep personal beliefs out of the decision making process, and focus on the overall goal of the company.
  • Hierarchy Conflict: Have you ever had a boss that you just couldn’t seem to get along with? Maybe they were abusing their power, or maybe they simply didn’t make the office seem like a welcoming place. Whatever the problem, it’s important to address it in order to exceed at your job. If you don’t enjoy going to work, how could you possibly put the utmost effort into your daily duties?
  • Sexual Harassment or Violence: You should always feel safe when you are at work. If someone is harassing you either verbally or physically, it’s important to notify your boss or manager as soon as you possibly can.

Understanding the Different Types of People

While you may be the one who likes to instantly address a problem and figure out how to come to an agreement, your coworker may not be as open to discussion. It’s important to understand that everyone deals with conflict in a different way, and the way that your opponent deals with conflict will change how you react to it. Chances are you’ll have to deal with these four types of people over the course of your working life:

  • The Passive Aggressive Coworker: Those who are passive aggressive tend to say one thing, yet their actions say the opposite. If you ask them to do you a favor, they may agree and then visibly seem irritated the entire time they are doing it. A conflict with a passive aggressive coworker can be hard to manage, but it isn’t impossible. It’s important not to beat around the bush. Since they aren’t going to bring up the cause of the conflict, it’s up to you to do so.
  • The Aggressive Coworker: The aggressive coworker is the one who always tends to raise their voice or make threats if they don’t get their way. While showering aggressive people with peace and kindness often makes them even more angry, it’s important to tread wisely around them. If someone is beginning to show physical violence in any form, it’s important to notify someone higher up the ladder. This way, the conflict is out of your own hands and someone above them can deal with the problem they pose to the rest of the office.
  • The Passive Coworker: The passive coworker simply doesn’t care. They’ll gladly do favors for you, but they won’t put their heart into it. They’ll gladly take orders and complete them, but they won’t go above and beyond what they are expected to do. They are simply there – going with the flow and seemingly uninterested in everything that is happening around them. While passive coworkers don’t tend to start conflicts, their lack of opinions and decisions can make working with them difficult. Often these people are shy and don’t like to speak up in large groups. In order to deal with a passive coworker, try speaking with them one on one and asking them direct questions. They may feel more comfortable speaking up about their opinions when they’re only speaking to one person.
  • The Assertive Coworker: The assertive coworker is the type of person that you should aspire to be. When they sense conflict, they speak up and try to solve it through healthy discussion. They know how to take charge in a room, but they also know how to respect and honor the opinions and beliefs of those around them. The assertive coworker is arguably the best type of coworker to be involved in a conflict with, because oftentimes the conflict can be resolved through mature discussion about the pros and cons of each side.

Addressing Conflict Maturely

planningDisagreements escalate fast. One person believes one thing, the other believes another, and soon enough you have two people shouting at each other at the top of their lungs, threatening to use physical violence or slinging insults. This, as you may have guessed, is not proper conduct in the workplace. While this type of behavior will surely lead to both parties losing their jobs, it also does nothing to help promote healthy change. More often than not, as soon as an argument begins both parties are on the defensive. This leads to increased levels of stress, which is not conducive to mature discussion.

So how can you argue without getting heated? This is where you need to set your pride aside and think about the company, not yourself. If you are about to get into an argument with a coworker, pause and think “does my stance on the matter reflect the goals of the company?” If the argument has nothing to do with work, keep it outside of work. If it does relate to your job, make sure that your beliefs on the matter coincide with those of the company.

So how can you resolve conflicts while honoring everyone’s input?

  • Discussion: Conflicts often arise due to lack of communication or miscommunication. In order to resolve a conflict, everything must be laid out on the table. Set up a time where everyone can get together and discuss the problem at hand. Give everyone a fair chance to speak their mind, then determine what the best course of action is. In many cases, you’ll find that the conflict works itself out throughout the discussion. If this is not the case, you may have to move on to a different technique.
  • Writing it down: This can be helpful if you are involved in a personal conflict with another coworker. If the two of you get too heated when speaking to each other, writing down your thoughts can be a better way of letting the other person know what it is that gets you so heated. By writing it down instead of speaking directly to your coworker, you can spend more time carefully choosing your words, and won’t have the chance to get involved in a yelling match. If the two of you write down your problems, you can work them out in a calmer manner.
  • Involving a third party: Sometimes a conflict simply can’t be resolved without including a third party. If you and your coworkers cannot come to a conclusion on your own, choose a trusted individual who has no biases. Many times all it takes is someone with a fresh eye to come in and solve the problem.
  • Compromise: Conflict resolution involves a decent amount of give and take. If no one can come to a solid conclusion, sometimes the best solution is figuring out a way to mix together everyone’s input. This way, everyone can feel as though they contributed to the solution instead of just focusing on one person’s decision.
  • Businessman Pointing Finger Towards ColleagueMajority vote: If you’ve been sitting in a board room for hours and no one has agreed on anything yet, sometimes you need to let it up to majority vote. If possible, narrow the problem down into two possible solutions, then ask the room to vote on which solution they think is best. Whichever solution gets the most votes is the one that you continue with. This technique should only be used if the entire group cannot come to a conclusion without it, since voting can lead to hurt feelings.

While conflict can lead to much needed change, this can only happen if everyone involved decides to address the conflict in a mature and professional way. If you understand how to manage conflict, you can help others do the same. Udemy’s course on conflict resolution can help you understand the proper ways of dealing with conflict in the workplace without yelling or violence. When everyone gets along, everyone can succeed!