Have you ever been witness to or even part of a workplace conflict? It can be one of the more uncomfortable professional experiences as it generally takes place in front of some form of audience. Or news of it has made its way to every corner office through word of mouth. Whatever the case, feelings such as embarrassment, lack of privacy, or even frustration can quickly rise to the surface because of the public awareness of the issue at hand. Dwelling on these emotions could hinder more than just your professional productivity. This can prevent an effort from being made to resolve the conflict which results in the conflict being drawn out much longer than necessary. Kenneth Cloke, the founder of Mediators Beyond Borders International, offered a different approach to handling conflict, “Every conflict we face in life is rich with positive and negative potential. It can be a source of inspiration, enlightenment, learning, transformation, and growth-or rage, fear, shame, entrapment, and resistance. The choice is not up to our opponents, but to us, and our willingness to face and work through them.”
Conceptually, resolving conflict is a brilliant idea for a litany of reasons. But what does it look like practically? Here are successful strategies for workplace conflict resolution.
Mindfulness is key
Jim Marggraff is the CEO of Kinoo, a brand offering a new video communication app and controller. He suggests being proactive about paying attention and making space for every person’s voice to be heard.
“In the heat of the moment, it’s so easy to get caught up in trying to get your point across that the thoughts of the opposite party aren’t even on your radar. Obviously, this is going to cause problems. As difficult as it might be, try to be mindful in listening to what is trying to be communicated to you, as well as ensuring that anyone involved has an opportunity to share what’s on their mind. Thoughts or feelings left unresolved will only fester and reappear down the road so get it all out as early as you can.”
Consider your approach
Like first impressions, first responses in a conflict can leave a lasting impact. OSDB is a business providing an online sports database. Their Co-Founder and CEO, Ryan Rottman, advises others to take this into account.
“I’m not going to sit here and claim that workplace conflict resolution is an easy world to navigate. With numerous variables, there’s not many problems that are exactly like the last and people are always interesting. But I can tell you to consider your approach to each conflict that comes your way. High-emotion situations can result in behavior that you would not otherwise demonstrate and could create more issues. It’s a lose-lose, really. It’s going to take some practice but start working on being level-headed despite the scenario.”
A scale of one to ten
AdQuick specializes in billboards and out-of-home (OOH) advertising. Their VP Marketing, Lina Miranda, considers it critical to analyze the circumstances and ask yourself how serious it is on a sliding scale.
“No person wants this to be the case but there are just times where law enforcement needs to step in. It’s a very fine line too and many people interpret it differently. Whether you’re a bystander or caught in the middle of something, ask yourself, on a scale of one to ten, how unacceptable is what’s happening? If it’s a simple dispute over the use of condiments in the break room fridge, it’s probably a one or two. But sadly, there are instances where that number must be at an eight or higher. At that point, it might be time to give the authorities a call.”
Do your research
Ryan Rockefeller, Co-founder of Cleared, a brand offering an online allergy consultation. They caution others to avoid making any rash decisions without having all the information.
“There’s a reason why the judicial system operates under the phrase, ‘Innocent until proven guilty.’ Sometimes, things we once thought to be fact are proven to be quite the opposite. On top of that, it’s typical for additional evidence to be found well after the fact and that can greatly swing the perception of conflict. Before you make a move of any kind, do your research to ensure that the story you’re being told is true. Backtracking from a decision in a professional setting will only harm any ongoing conflict.”
Find common ground
It is apparent by the presence of a conflict that the two parties have issues with each other. Baotris is a business providing investment, resources, and enterprise-level tools for Shopify eCommerce stores. Their Co-Founder and CEO, John Cheng, proposes searching for shared interests or goals.
“When people begin to play mediator between two people who are having an issue, there’s a usual trend where they focus solely on the issue. Rightfully so, without it, none of the people who are part of this thing would be present. However, there comes a time where the mediator should begin to focus on the common ground of the two parties. Seeing as they’re both employees of the same company, this can be a great starting point. From there, identify what is similar between the two and go from there.”
Jae Pak MD Medical specializes in hair transplant services. Their Founder, Jae Pak, believes creating an environment that prioritizes free-flowing communication can be beneficial to solving problems.
“Let’s say you’re sitting in your office with the door closed and the smoke alarm a few offices down starts going off. You’re going to be aware of this because of the sound, right? Well, there are problems which do not advertise themselves in the same way that fire does. Often, the only way to discover these problems is if they make themselves known to you. To find these, I think you implement an open-door policy which allows employees to share privately and freely with about anything they see fit.”
The reality is, there are few if any positives about experiencing conflict in the office. Though, those in conflict and bystanders can influence the outcome and make the most of it. Author Max Lucado put it best, “Conflict is inevitable, but combat is optional.”