How do I resolve conflict?
Wherever there are people in a relationship, personal or professional, there will be conflict. It is a characteristic of the human condition, People will disagree. You, as a manager, cannot eliminate conflict in the workplace.
On the other hand, if constructively managed, differing ideas lead to innovation and invention. It is one of the reasons why a diverse workplace can be so valuable. People with different backgrounds, experiences, educations, nationalities, genders, and ages will come up with something new. The key is to manage the conflict so that it doesn’t erupt into anger and retribution. You can’t let it get out of hand.
Peter T. Coleman, in his book, Making Conflict Work, says that controlled conflict can allow organizations to be “more effective, creative, and innovative.”
Conflict resolution and mediation requires special training and skills and is not typically a competency of most managers. HR professionals may be better prepared to provide conflict resolution if they have knowledgeable, experienced resources. A poor attempt at resolving conflict could make things worse for all parties.
The key to dealing with conflict is to first recognize the conflict and to initiate decisive action. Determine resources available to provide conflict resolution and mediation. If you do not have qualified internal support, consider hiring a qualified external mediator. This approach may have the additional advantage of having a mediator who everyone recognizes as a neutral party.
Conflict resolution and mediation must be voluntary. It is difficult to force people, or teams, to resolve conflict on their own.
Some of the basic steps to resolve conflict are:
- Bringing the parties together to listen to each other
- Using an effective mediator to skillfully guide participants with a quality interaction.
- The mediator working with the parties to explore possible solutions and to formulate decisions if appropriate.
- Reaching a point at which parties understand — not necessarily agree — with each other and possibly arrive at a resolution that all parties can live with.