Here’s an obvious statement: Conflict is a fact of life, especially at work. Our challenge is in deciding how best to deal with conflict. You have to deal with it, even if your choice is to avoid it. Conflict resolution involves negotiating skills, empathy, listening, compassion, and treating all parties with dignity and respect. Successful conflict resolution involves considering many factors including the personalities of the people in conflict and the nature of the conflict. You have to consider whether the conflict is serious enough to merit your attention or if it’s something to delegate. You must also consider the potential impact of the conflict on your workplace. Does the conflict have the potential to disrupt operations or affect customers?
Here are five considerations in successful conflict resolution:
Don’t put it off
When conflict arises, you need to deal with it right away. Your choice might be to ignore it and let it resolve itself or you might choose to deal with it. Regardless, you need to make the decision about what to do right away. You can choose to ignore it if it is a minor conflict, if it doesn’t affect operations, or if you can delegate it to someone else to deal with.
You must listen to gather information about the conflict. Ask open-ended questions to help draw people out.
Even if you have feelings one way or the other regarding the conflict, try to maintain your impartiality. Try to understand how and why each of the parties to the conflict feel the way they do.
Have a Meeting to Resolve the Conflict
I had two employees who were often in conflict. One was a star performer whose job was secure. The other was a valuable administrative assistant whom I didn’t want to lose. If the conflict wasn’t resolved, the administrative assistant would probably have lost her job. I brought them both into my office and told them both how much I valued their work. I emphasized that both of them were good and decent people that I enjoyed working with. I then told them that I thought they could work out their conflict without my intervention and instructed them to discuss their differences respectfully, which they did. They resolved their issues and worked together successfully for many years after.
Keep Your Emotions Out of the Conflict
My former boss Mike Costello said, “Never make major decisions when you’re experiencing emotional extremes, either high or low.” That’s great advice, especially when dealing with conflict. Often, during conflict, emotions can get raw with the potential for saying or doing something you’ll later regret. If you feel yourself getting angry or emotional in some other way, suggest taking a break. Come back a day later and revisit the conflict when cooler heads can prevail.
Conflict is indeed a fact of life. Whether you enjoy conflict or try to avoid it, knowing how to manage it and resolve it is a valuable tool for your career and your life. You’ll find many other excellent ideas about resolving conflict online. Remember, don’t put it off, be a good listener, be impartial, have a meeting, and keep your emotions out of it. Conflict can be good, as long as you learn how to manage it successfully.
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