Conflict Resolution

Recent studies estimate that managers spend between 30 percent and 40 percent of their time each day tending to conflicts, whether between employees, employees and managers, between departments or even between companies.

Having the skills for conflict resolution is essential and should be a priority for your business. Employees that have a manager or supervisor that handles conflict effectively and quickly are typically happy, loyal and feel valued.

Many managers are afraid of conflict and are conflict avoidant. Part of the reason that most people are conflict avoidant is simply because they don't have the skills to resolve conflicts and therefore ignore them. Unfortunately, conflict rarely just disappears if it is ignored.

Left unresolved, conflict amongst your staff will not only affect the parties directly involved, but it will splinter off and affect others in your organization as well. Unaddressed, conflict can be lethal for morale. The key is understanding how to resolve conflict and communicating effectively so that the conflict can result in a compromise and does not get out of hand. The resolution process will strengthen relationships between staff members and promote team building by working towards a win/win solution for all involved. Addressing conflicts quickly will diffuse disagreements, therefore increasing productivity, and allow all parties to move forward.

Clear, kind, and respectful communication is critical to working through conflict. As a manager you will need to have the ability to:

  • Initiate discussions among the parties in conflict
  • Be able to communicate clearly with each party during the discussion
  • Ensure sure you are willing to listen to both parties and be open to new ideas and opinions

Once you have facilitated a discussion, establish a solution with input from each party and mutually agree on how problems will be handled moving forward. Check in with each party to be sure they have moved on and are back to being productive and acting as they agreed. Always ask for solutions to problems that are presented to you. Their solution combined with your solution will be powerful and will teach the dynamic you are seeking.

Once you have mastered conflict resolution, you can train your employees how to resolve conflict as well. There will be times when the conflict is too great or too complex to be handled without management, but it would be beneficial for you, and your employees, for them to be able to resolve some conflicts on their own.

Teach them how to handle conflict by sending them to a seminar, invite a speaker to a staff meeting or discuss common conflicts and how to resolve them yourself. Anything that will help them learn what causes conflict and how to work through it on their own will be beneficial.

Practice and teach your employees good, clear communication and problem solving skills. Try role-playing common conflict scenarios and let your employees practice their mediation skills in a low pressure situation, such as a monthly meeting, to increase their comfort level when a conflict does arise. Most importantly, help your employees understand the need to work through conflict by keeping their emotions out of the scenario and focusing on the issue at hand. Separate fact from emotion, always.

Conflict resolution is a critical part of a healthy organization. For the sake of your company, and the health and relationships of your employees, don't sweep conflict under the rug. Encourage your employees to be open and deal with issues; which will create an environment where employees are empowered to work as a team.

Published Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Bryon Peterson is the President of Human Resources Group International. HRGI is a group of human resources consultants with over 25 years of experience in the field. HRGI provides comprehensive human resources products and services to businesses throughout the United States, and Canada. Its mission is to provide an integrated and highly effective working environment for companies and their employees.

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