Having different goals and styles can actually promote innovative solutions in addition to conflicts.
Conflicts are inevitable. Having different goals and styles can actually promote innovative solutions, creativity, and help bring about change. However negative results happen when conflicts are associated with blame, anger, and grudges. No matter what the source of the conflict is, resolution before the situation escalates is essential.
When addressing conflicts, a key step is focus on the issue, not the person.
What are some ways of informally resolving conflicts?
Employees should be encouraged to seek help when resolving conflicts. The situation should be brought to the attention of the relevant parties. Employees may wish to try to discuss the situation with the person (people) they are having the conflict with, or they may wish to ask for help from other people.
If the issue is not serious or severe, resolution process can come from within the employee’s department, if possible. If the employee feels uncomfortable raising the issue within their department, they should know where to seek help. Options may be to work with the Human Resources department, a designated manager, or through the use of an external professional.
Not all situations will require the same option or method of resolution. You may find that one type of strategy works well for certain situations or people, and not in other situations or with certain people.
Try to remain flexible and use a variety of strategies including:
Avoiding: In some cases, it may be appropriate to leave a conflict unresolved. In other cases, just leave the conflict unresolved for a cooling off period.
Accommodating: Accepting that there is a minor conflict (an “agreeing to disagree” arrangement) can be an important gesture for minor issues. Accommodating on the small issues may help to build trust and respect between those with the conflict.
Confronting: Discussing face-to-face in a respectful and professional manner may also help. Be sure to consider the other person’s position and feelings on the issue. Confronting may include explaining why certain decisions were made (“I did not use your idea because…”) and, if necessary, a further explanation such as “But unfortunately, the final decision for the project was not made by me, for those reasons”.
Collaborating: Like confronting, you discuss the situation directly with the other person. However, you may decide to follow the explanation with an offer to involve the other person in another way. (“But, I was wondering if you had any ideas about… ”).
Compromising: With this option, the differences in opinion are discussed. A plan or option is reached together, and often both sides agree to modify their position.
Communication: Clear communication is essential for good working relationships. Often, subtle differences in verbal and nonverbal communications can change the way a situation is seen and interpreted. The more emotional the situation becomes, the more these cues affect our interpretation of the event(s).
What are more tips for resolving conflicts?
- Try to put yourself in the other person’s position so that you can better understand how to address the issue.
- Ask for his or her recommendation.
- Repeat back to the person what you feel he or she is asking or telling you in order to clarify what you are hearing.
- Accept criticism in a positive way. When a complaint might be true, use statements like “you are probably right” or “it was my fault”. If the criticism seems unwarranted, ask for clarification.
- Be honest. Do not make false statements or promises you cannot keep.
- Take the person seriously and be respectful.
- Break down the issue into smaller units and offer step-by-step solutions so the person is not overwhelmed by the complete situation.
- Be reassuring. Point out or offer choices.
- Do not take sides.
- Do not reject the person’s demands or position from the start. Use a neutral, non-judgmental comment such as “that is an option”.
- Do not make promises you cannot keep.