Human Resources

Resolving Workplace Conflicts with Respect

Yesterday’s Advisor offered 10 steps for creating a workplace culture of respect. Today, we’re taking a closer look at how respect can be essential when working to resolve workplace conflicts.

First, let’s define what “conflict” is in the context of the work environment. Conflict is a struggle between opposing needs, interests, or views. It can arise between individuals or between groups. It is a difference of opinion where the opposing sides cling to their positions and are unable to reach consensus.

Conflict can divide people and create polarization, with opposing sides taking increasingly hard lines, and with the distance between the two sides growing as the conflict continues. It often breeds hostility, anger, and a negative, antagonistic work environment.

However, conflict is not always necessarily destructive. Properly managed, conflict can be a positive thing, sparking creativity and challenging employees to think about what they are doing and how they might improve methods and procedures. When employees disagree about how things should be done, the debate can lead to better products and services, cost savings, and more efficient operations.

Let’s also outline the common causes of workplace conflict.

  • Poor communication is a frequent cause of conflict, since it so often leads to misunderstandings.
  • Different work styles can also cause conflict when cooperation or collaboration is required.
  • Different personalities sometimes come into conflict on the job.
  • Different goals and interests can lead to conflict and competition over priorities.
  • Different aspirations or needs may lead to conflict over resources, recognition, advancement, etc.
  • Overlapping job functions may cause territorial disputes to flare up.
  • Different perceptions about situations, policies, procedures, and so on can cause problems.

In addition, workers may also be responding to different pressures, which can also cause conflict. It is important to remember that while some conflict in the workplace may be work-related, other sources of conflict can be purely personal, with people acting against one another for often irrational and emotional reasons.

Resolve Conflicts Effectively with Respect

Once you have a working awareness of what workplace conflict looks like and what may be causing it, you are better equipped to resolve it. Here are some concrete, practical steps to take that all revolve around respecting the parties involved.

  • Don’t let workplace conflicts fester and grow; deal with them as soon as you identify them.
  • Call a meeting with the individuals involved in the conflict and discuss the situation.
  • Require conflicting parties to listen and treat each other respectfully.
  • Define the problem clearly in terms of the needs, interests, and concerns of each party.
  • Look for common ground and search for solutions on which the parties to the conflict can agree.
  • Encourage compromise, and work toward a mutually acceptable resolution to the conflict.
  • Discuss ways to prevent conflict with employees, and implement their suggestions.
  • Train employees about conflict resolution skills so that they can resolve their own conflicts.

Two Final Training Tips

Customize the training content in these Advisors by including the following information:

  1. Review your organization’s policies concerning professional behavior in the workplace.
  2. Identify your organization’s procedures for resolving workplace conflict (for example, mediation by a supervisor or manager, HR intervention, EAP counseling).