Conflict resolution (A complete guide)

Conflict resolution skills are needed for a variety of jobs across several disciplines.

Conflict in the workplace tends to have a negative impact on productivity and can create a hostile work environment. These situations might lead to high rates of employee turnover and reduced morale.

In order to keep the workplace as productive and harmonious as possible, employees need to practice conflict resolution skills for when these troublesome situations occur.

People who have good conflict resolution skills are great mediators, approach problems from a rational point of view and are white sympathetic to all parties involved in a conflict. 

What Is Conflict Resolution?

Conflict resolution is the way in which two or more parties work through a disagreement to reach a peaceful resolution.

Conflict might occur between coworkers, between supervisors and their employees or between a company and its customers.

It’s also not uncommon to see conflict within and between teams, such as conflicts that arise between management and frontline workers.

In some conflicts, it’s less important to determine which side is “right” and more important that the problem is solved so that everyone can get back to work and focus on being productive.

However, other arguments [such as how a company will operate] are more important to work through and determine which way is the best way to run a business. 

The Conflict Resolution process

The conflict resolution process consists of many steps.

Below is a general list of some of the steps that you might take when walking a team through conflict resolution:  

  • Recognition by all teams that there’s a problem
  • Mutual agreement to deal with the problem and reach a resolution
  • Gather and listen to the opinions of all parties involved in the conflict
  • Distinguishing verbal and nonverbal cues that indicate how employees feel about the conflict
  • Recognizing triggers to episodes of conflict
  • Interventions by third parties like Human Resources representatives or higher-level managers to mediate
  • A decision to reach a compromise 
  • Determining what the solution to the problem will be 
  • Ensure that all individuals agree on some level with the plan of action
  • Discouraging employees from revisiting the conflict once the issue is resolved.

Types of Conflict Resolution Skills

Assertiveness

A supervisor may take the initiative to arrange a meeting between two staff members that have engaged in a very public argument.

Another employee might ask someone to intervene and help both people find a way to work well together and keep peace in the workplace.

People with assertive conflict resolution styles are often decisive, manage their emotions well, voice their opinions, exercise self control and are great problem solvers.

This style of conflict resolution does not work for everyone but is highly effective for those who wish to confront a problem and deal with it as quickly as possible. 

Interviewing and Active Listening

A human resources employee might need to meet with two individuals in order to mediate a conflict.

Active listening allows the human resources employee to validate each employee’s thoughts and feelings, encourage them to discuss further how they felt and ask what they might like to do about the conflict moving forward.

People who practice this style of conflict resolution are known for being empathic, conscientious, intuitive, respectful and highly focused on relationship build.

In this person’s eyes, mindfully solving a conflict starts with reading the room and making sure that each person involved in the conflict is heard and validated while working toward a solution.

Empathy

A mediator may encourage empathy by asking staff who are in the middle of the conflict to describe how the person they’re arguing with might feel or what they might be thinking in this situation.

This is a very useful tool in helping people who are in an argument with each other understand the other person’s point of view, even if they may not agree.

Mediators who use this tool for conflict resolution are often skilled at building trust, giving feedback, handling difficult personalities, including everyone in the conversation and have high emotional intelligence.

This combination of traits allows for everyone to understand all sides of an argument, which in turn may lead employees to reach a resolution.

Facilitation

Managers of different departments may facilitate a cross-departmental meeting with their groups to come up with solutions to current or potential points of conflict.

Cluster facilitation techniques may be used to avoid sparking conflict through cluster-decision making, which may leave out key opinions and suggestions from another team.

People who practice facilitation are very diplomatic, collaborative, organized, patient and realistic in their conflict resolution approaches.

Mediation Skills

A mediator may help others reach a solution based on mutually agreed upon changes in behavior.

Mediators are often impartial, honest, transparent, respectful and rational in their conflict resolution approaches.

A mediator in an organization is an incredibly important resource to have on any team. 

Creative Resolution

A supervisor may redefine the roles of two  conflict-prone workers to easily eliminate points of tension.

Creative problem solvers are skilled at using goal integration, restoring relationships, using humor, noting verbal communication cues and using observational skills to help people reach their goals and resolve their conflicts in the most creative manner possible.

5 Conflict resolution methods

People often deal with conflict in a variety of ways, therefore there are different ways to resolve conflicts.

The Thomas Kilmann measure is a widely used tool in order to determine what conflict resolution style you practice and what characteristics each conflict resolution style entails.

Thomas and Kilmann developed 5 conflict resolution methods that people use to handle conflict.

The five methods, which we’ll discuss in more detail below, are competing, collaborating, compromising, asserting and avoiding.

This method determines just how assertive and how cooperative you are in a tense situation.

It’s very useful to know these 5 strategies because you will more likely than not utilize one of them in a future conflict resolution setting.

  1. Avoiding

Avoiding is used when someone wishes to avoid conflict entirely.

This technique is often used because people find conflict too uncomfortable to bear.

While this may seem like the most comfortable choice for someone to pursue at a given time, it may not always be the best decision in the long term.

People who avoid conflict do not like confrontation and will retreat if someone tries to start an argument with them.

Avoiding a conflict is one way to ensure that the problem at hand never gets resolved. 

  1. Competing

Competing is employed by folks that enter a conflict with the mindset that they need to win the argument.

People who have a competitive nature when it comes to conflict resolution are extremely assertive and not at all cooperative.

This technique is largely characterized by the fact that they must win, and if they win everyone else loses. 

  1. Accommodating

Accommodating could be a strategy when one person makes exceptions for and takes into consideration the needs and wants of the other side.

People who have an accommodating conflict resolution style are cooperative when working with whoever they’re arguing with and are willing to admit they’re wrong if they do see that their position was not correct.

However, accommodating conflict resolution styles can sometimes be too accommodating for the sake of keeping peace.

This could potentially lead to an unresolved conflict or a bigger conflict developing at a later date.  

  1. Collaborating

Collaborating is the technique most often used by people who are both assertive and cooperative in nature.

This style allows individuals to work with the other team members to hash out what solutions might work and which will likely be disastrous.

Collaborative people not only make sure that their voices are heard but also that the needs of the other party are met as well.

There may be some disagreements along the way in a collaborative problem solving process, but the disagreements are almost always civil in nature.

This discussion is important to ensure that everyone’s needs are met on some level when the conflict is being resolved. 

  1. Compromising

The final conflict resolution strategy is compromising, where participants are part assertive and cooperative.

Similar to collaborative problem solvers, people who compromise weigh everyone’s needs in the conflict resolution process.

However, each side is also willing to sacrifice a portion of what they originally wanted in order to arrive at a solution that works best for the team.

Teams that compromise often split the difference and make sure that everyone is somewhat happy with the outcome.

A conflict resolution approach that uses compromise assumes that people are being honest when they voice their concerns. 

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FAQs on Conflict Resolution:

How do you confront a conflict in a team?

Below is a list of steps that can help guide you through confronting a conflict in a team setting:

– Acknowledge the Conflict

– Stop to identify the problem

– Examine all aspects of the problem

– Break into small groups and discuss

– Reconvene your teams to decide on a solution

– Celebrate the Resolution as a Team

What are the five conflict management strategies?

Thomas and Kilmann developed five conflict resolution methods (competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding and accommodating) that people use to handle conflict.

This supports that idea that people generally decide how cooperative and how assertive they’d like to be when resolving a conflict. 

Interested in Learning More? Check out these books on Conflict Resolutions:

  • The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice
  • Resolving Conflicts at Work: Ten Strategies for Everyone on the Job
  • The Mindful Guide to Conflict Resolution: How to Thoughtfully Handle Difficult Situations, Conversations, and Personalities

What we recommend for Relationship & LGBTQ issues

Relationship counselling

  • If you are having relationship issues or maybe you are in an abusive relationship then relationship counselling could be your first point of call. Relationship counselling could be undertaken by just you, it does not require more than one person.

LGBTQ issues

If you are dealing with LGBTQ issues then LGBTQ counselling may be a great option for you. Maybe you are confused as to your role and identity or simply need someone to speak to. LGBTQ counsellors are specially trained to assist you in this regard.

References:

  1. Negotiating for Success: Essential Strategies and Skills(Book)
  2. The sage Handbook of Conflict Resolution(book)
  3. https://www.mindtools.com/
  4. https://www.skillsyouneed.com

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