Building Stronger Teams through Conflict Resolution

Conflict is inevitable in the workplace; it’s a natural part of any team. The way your team handles the conflicts that arise is what makes all the difference. It’s always important to approach conflicts with a solution-focused mindset, but different conflicts require different styles of conflict resolution.

Sometimes conflicts require a “winner” and a “loser,” but sometimes it’s okay to compromise and allow both parties to walk away with half of what they desired. At other times, it may be best to set the conflict aside entirely until both parties have gathered their thoughts.

Strong leaders and team members consistently identify the best style of conflict resolution to use in each conflict they encounter. They also understand their instinctual reactions when they feel as though someone has offended them, and they resist the urge they may have to “fight back.”

As a manager, it is your responsibility to help address and resolve conflicts effectively. Failure to do so can cause lasting damage to team dynamics and reduce productivity.

Is conflict always negative?

Conflict can arise from a variety of sources. People have differences in opinion, they compete for resources, and sometimes have power struggles. It can lead to a tense work environment, communication breakdowns, and even the loss of valuable team members.

But wait – conflict does not have to be a negative force. If handled correctly, conflict can lead to high levels of psychological safety, more creative problem-solving, and innovative ideas.

How can you help resolve conflicts effectively?

  • Impactfully listening is fundamental in conflict resolution, as it helps to understand each perspective and identify the root cause of the conflict. Ask open-ended questions to get to the root of the problem. Practicing empathy and understanding can go a long way towards creating an environment for healthy conflict resolution.
  • Facilitating productive conversations and negotiations can help to reach a compromise on a solution that works for everyone on the team. Sometimes bringing the involved parties together to work towards a common goal can help to resolve the conflict. And don’t be afraid of silence! Sometimes silence is necessary to allow everyone to think through the situation.
  • Using real-life examples and success stories can help to illustrate the learning opportunities that lie within conflicts. By showing the team how conflicts can be resolved in a positive and productive manner, you can create a culture where conflicts are viewed as opportunities for growth. Consider sharing a story, possibly a story I’ve shared in this blog, as an example.
  • Realizing when it’s okay to walk away can simmer down conflict in low-stake situations. Two people may not be seeing eye-to-eye, but a deadline isn’t quite looming. It’s okay to take a break for a while until tensions subside. This may be tabling the conflict for a couple of hours or even overnight. This isn’t avoiding the conflict; it’s allowing time for clarity.

Can you help prevent future conflicts?

It’s impossible to prevent all conflicts. It also wouldn’t be ideal! Conflicts are an opportunity for learning and growth. It is possible to be proactive in identifying potential conflicts, though.

Measures such as team building activities, peer-to-peer recognition, and encouraging open and honest two-way communication can make it easier to identify potential conflicts early on.

Here are a few questions surrounding conflict resolution to ask yourself and your team:

  • When encountering a conflict, do you always identify the style of conflict resolution that will work best?
  • Do you understand your instinctual reaction when you hear criticism?
  • Do you try to look at the conflict through the other person’s perspective?
  • After encountering a conflict, do you take time to reflect on the situation and identify any areas for growth?

Conflicts are an opportunity for growth and development. Much like rocks bumping and tumbling around in a rock polisher, conflict provides us the opportunity to come out on the other side, shining and strong.

Pic designed by media_photos for Envato Elements.

Kate Rehling is a Talent Analyst for the Center for Sales Strategy and Engagement Specialist for Up Your Culture.

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