Workplace Essentials: Resolving Conflict at Work
By Alan Bernstein, SHRM-SCP
President and Chief Human Resource Consultant of HR Office Savers, Inc.
People often assume that conflict is always negative. This is not true! People are inherently different, and conflict can happen when those differences come to light. Equipped with a conflict resolution process, you can explore and understand those differences and use them to interact in a more positive, productive way.
Create an Effective Atmosphere
When people are involved in a conflict, there is typically a lot of negative energy. Anger, frustration, and disappointment are just a few of the emotions often felt.
By establishing a positive atmosphere, we can begin to turn that negative energy around and create a powerful problem-solving force. This creates a strong beginning for the conflict resolution process.
Once participants have agreed to resolve the conflict, it is important to neutralize as many negative emotions as possible. This means giving the participants in the conflict time to vent and work through the feelings associated with the conflict.
Choose the Time and Place
The right time and place are often a key part of resolving conflict. Trying to solve a major team issue five minutes before the end of the shift just isn’t going to work – people are going to be focused on going home, not on the problem.
When possible, choose a neutral and quiet place to discuss the conflict. Make sure there is lots of time allowed. Minimize distractions if possible: turn cell phones off, forward office phones to voice mail, and turn off computers.
If you are mediating a conflict resolution meeting, be conscious of the needs of both parties when scheduling the meeting. Make sure that the time chosen works well for both of them.
The Importance of Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a key concept in conflict resolution. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting that the conflict happened or erasing the emotions that it created. It does mean accepting that the conflict happened.
Accept and work through how it made you feel, accept the consequences that it had, and let those actions and consequences exist in the past.
Have a backup plan in case your approach doesn’t work. This could be a different solution, a different way of presenting your original solution, or even a proposal to move to a more complex resolution process.
Successful conflict resolution should give the participants some feeling of closure over the issue. Participants should feel that the conflict has been resolved to their satisfaction and that it will not likely reoccur.
Alan is the owner of HR Office Savers, Inc., an independent human resource consulting firm that supports small local businesses and individuals with their human resource needs, including staffing, compliance, and job search. Prior to launching his business, Alan held a series of Human Resource positions of increased responsibility at Harris Corporation, Honeywell International, GTSI Corp, and Verizon Wireless. Alan holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from The University of Buffalo, is Six Sigma Green Belt Certified, and is a Senior Certified Professional with the Society of Human Resource Management.HR Office Savers offers a full range of human resource support options, from employee relations to termination, including performance improvement plans and progressive discipline policies. Contact us today at www.HROfficeSavers.com.Promoting positive and sustained employment for both workers and employers!