Conflict Resolution in the Workplace

address conflict in the workplace
address conflict in the workplace

A manager discusses an issue about a forklift driver.

Conflict exists in every organization, and in turn, every organization fears confrontation. The word conflict conjures images of people in crisis, anger, and altercation. Conflict can be healthy and cathartic for any organization if conflict resolution is appropriately managed and executed.

Let’s talk about conflict and crisis.

In most of our workplace settings, nearly every person exists in some form of crisis. Their crisis could be personal or professional, yet either way, the situation is present in our workplace and converts to conflict. Reading this, you think conflict is not acceptable and can deteriorate employee morale and negatively affect production.

Is conflict bad? No, conflict can be a useful tool for change. Management may not be aware of the circumstances that have existed in the workplace. When the situation comes to a boil, it presents an opportunity for resolution. Successfully managing conflict and working interactively can:

  • Result in problem-solving by increasing involvement from both parties
  • Promotes open and honest communication
  • Relieves pent up emotion and hostility
  • Be used to educate people and show them how to work
  • Fosters collaboration and innovation
  • Produces change
  • Promotes a fair environment

Why is workplace conflict viewed as harmful and disruptive?

Managers and human resource professionals may be unaware of how to manage conflict to initiate positive change. Employees may feel they are managed by fear, intimidation, coercion, and threats. Perception is reality, even if this statement is untrue. These feelings bring conflict to the workplace, and when unaddressed, can deteriorate morale, teamwork, and productivity.

How does conflict happen in your business?

People are the most valuable asset in any business. In today’s pandemic and economic world, people feel stress, and conflict is somewhat inevitable.

“Society is not all peace and harmony. There is deep dissension and resentment of perceived inequities and injustice.” Dennis Riley, Catamount Consulting

Employees are conflicted, and a variety of triggers may initiate a crisis in your workplace. Triggers include:

  • Miscommunication and poor choice of language
  • Unclear roles
  • Bias (gender, race, religion, and political)
  • Socio-economic status and challenges
  • The negative impact of social media outlets

Your employees are looking to be respected. When they feel disrespected, bad things happen. A seemingly innocent action can push a situation into a crisis. Conflict resolution can disarm the problem by encouraging collaboration and open communication.

The five stages of conflict

The five stages of conflict are Disagreement. Confrontation. Escalation. De-Escalation and Resolution. Triggers in the workplace, lack of respect, and feelings of inequity create the perfect storm for conflict. Management often meets aggression with aggression, only to escalate the conflict. Let’s substitute confrontation with conflict resolution.

To combat the conflict, we turn to “The Four D’s,”

Disengage. Separate people in conflict by interjecting immediately. If the conflict involves only one party, separate them from the group to diffuse the situation.

Diffuse. Allow the individual(s) to vent without interruption. Let people be emotional and do not speak, and they will soon lose their steam.

Disarm. Now we stand on neutral ground and try to find out what is wrong. Do not exert an authoritarian position. Be empathetic and remove the emotion from the situation.

Divest. Separate the person from the problem. Something caused the person to create a confrontation or crisis. Now you can negotiate and address the issue at hand.

How to use negotiation in conflict

effective workplace conflict resolution

Settlement of disputes by the mediator. Dispute Resolution and Mediation. Third-party intermediary.

An integral part of negotiation happens when we focus on interests, not position. Identify the employee’s underlying reasons, values, or motivations. What does the person need to move to the next step?

Generate different options for mutual gain. Identify and satisfy common interests through collective brainstorming. Collaboration invites both sides to the negotiation table in a fair capacity. Understand and accept there is no perfect solution or resolution. The outcome should benefit both the company and the individual.

Sadly, the ‘plus one rule’ identifies the one individual that is so divisive that they cannot be brought to resolution. The next step is up to you and the human resource policies you have in place.

Implementing an effective conflict resolution process in your business

Catamount Consulting is a provider of comprehensive on and off-site workplace training in all facets of MSHA, OSHA, and Work Zone Safety. Our Conflict Resolution Training is customized and scaled based on the size of your organization.

Conflict resolution in the workplace does not have to be frustrating or intimidating. Contact us to schedule a time to talk about your organization and how Catamount Consulting can help you manage workplace conflict and create a collaborative work environment.