Conflict, while unpleasant, is something we will all face multiple times over the course of our careers. Though conflict is inherently negative, when managed effectively it can actually yield productive conversations and personal growth. Because conflict at work is inevitable, it is best to know how to manage conflict by having some strategies at your disposal so that you can resolve conflict quickly and get back to focusing on your goals. Your ability to manage conflict will provide a lot of value to your team as so many employees lack this skill and often don’t know how to express themselves professionally and respectfully when they are experiencing a high degree of emotion. Knowing how to manage conflict is a great way to practice emotional intelligence at work. Whether you’re a manager or a team member, having the right conflict management techniques at your disposal will give you simple, actionable steps to take so you can resolve these unpleasant, unavoidable situations.
How do you manage conflict?
Take a breath to evaluate and decide on your next step
The first thing you should do after a conflict has taken place is pause and evaluate your own feelings and the feelings of everyone else involved. If your heart is racing, your body temperature is hot, or your hands are shaking, your should try to calm your nervous system down by taking some deep breaths or taking a short walk. By stabilizing yourself physically, you can avoid reacting impulsively and potentially worsening the situation.
Consider whether the conflict involves the entire team and any stakeholders or if it’s a smaller conflict only affecting two to three team members. This will help you form a response appropriate to the scale of the situation.
You may be unable to address the conflict immediately because another task or project takes precedence. In that case, it’s important to acknowledge the feelings of those involved but firmly communicate that it will need to be addressed later.
Handle the conflict privately
If the conflict occurred in front of people who were not involved, you should state that it will be addressed privately to prevent intrusions and minimize gossip. Addressing the conflict privately gives those involved to express their emotions honestly and in a more comfortable setting.
Create an open line of communication
Once you have determined the appropriate setting and format to address the issue, make a point to offer everyone involved the same chance to share their perspective. Objectively frame the discussion by stating that an issue occurred and reinforce the fact that everyone should be able to share how they perceive the situation. Manage the conversation so that those involved can speak uninterrupted and without judgment from anyone in the room. This will eliminate any misconceptions about the issue.
Making those involved feel heard is a very validating and necessary experience in the conflict resolution process. Show you’re engaged by repeating or restating what each person is saying and ask for clarification if you’re unsure. Restating what each person is saying and giving them the opportunity to correct your restatements will result in a more well-rounded understanding of each person’s experience.
Encourage the use of “I” statements
Using “I” statements is an effective communication strategy because it prevents anyone from unfairly placing blame on anyone else and helps determine which elements of the conflict are facts and which elements are feelings. Sorting these two elements out will help you get to the crux of the conflict faster.
Know when to escalate the situation
Sometimes despite all of our best efforts and intentions, the conflicts we face are unresolvable. This may happen when someone involved is incredibly stubborn or maybe the situation is too far gone and is the result of a lengthy, dysfunctional pattern of behavior that the conflict cannot be resolved with a single conversation. In this situation, you should escalate the conflict to HR or your manager.
After the conversation, communicate the resolution in the appropriate manner. Restate the resolution you came to, thank everyone for their participation in the problem-solving process and leave your door open for any future thoughts or concerns on the matter. By reiterating the resolution, you make sure everyone’s on the same page.
Emotional Intelligence at Work
Effective communication is a skill we must all work to constantly learn in order to be good leaders. One of the best ways to retain great employees is to provide them a clear path forward and invest in their skills and efficiency, that’s why we created this guide.