Conflict Resolution 101
Tips to Instantly Get and Keep People On Your Side
Conflict in the workplace is inevitable; personalities clash, stress makes people more sensitive to criticism, people have different perceptions of situations. As a manager, you need to be able to resolve conflict in a way that works for the whole team and business without polarising people further.
In today’s article, we explore best practices for before, during, and after conflict to help you get and keep people on your side.
As Conflict Arises…
If you notice conflict arising, it’s best not to react immediately - make sure that you’re in a calm and collected headspace before reacting so that you’re prepared to deal with the situation in a professional, polite and effective manner. Letting your emotions lead the conversation means you have less control of the situation and may say something you don’t really mean.
If staying calm in anxious or frustrating situations is something that you struggle with, research suggests that diaphragmatic breathing can help greatly.
Diaphragmatic breathing is where you breathe in through your nose for 2 seconds, slowly breathe out through your mouth for 2 seconds, and repeat this for 90 seconds. This controlled way of breathing has many benefits, including:
- A decrease in cortisol levels (the stress hormone)
- A lower heart rate
- Lower blood pressure
While You Tackle the Situation…
While dealing with the conflict, make sure you stay calm and composed, and make sure that both what you say and your body language are non-threatening. Also, to avoid escalating the situation further, refrain from bringing up past conflicts that have already been resolved - this will only make the other person feel more defensive.
There are many simple but important things you can do to help diffuse the situation, including:
- Instead of saying ‘but’, try saying ‘and’ to show that you understand and value what the other person has said, you’re not disregarding it
- Instead of pointing the finger and saying ‘you didn’t …’, try saying ‘I noticed that … wasn’t done’ - Use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘You’
- Keep your facial expressions neutral - and be sure not to accidentally roll your eyes at someone!
Being emotionally intelligent is vital to effectively resolving conflict; we need to be aware of others’ emotions, how we’re coming across, and how what we are saying could be interpreted.
Some people can be more difficult to resolve conflict with than others. Resolving conflict with difficult people is a balance of letting them vent and using active listening to make them feel respected and heard. If something is said to you that is unkind or unfair, do not take it personally - more often than not, it is a reflection of the person’s frustration rather than a reflection of you or your actions.
Instead, be patient, listen to both/all sides, and then come to a fair compromise. It’s important to think to yourself - do I want to resolve the conflict, or do I just want to win and show that I’m right? There is courage and strength in admitting our mistakes and holding our hands up when we’re wrong, rather than being stubborn and adamant that we are always right. Being able to apologise when you’re in the wrong is key as it not only sets a good example for your staff, but also shows humility and honesty, which are essential to getting and keeping your team on your side.
Once It’s Over…
Once the situation is resolved, make sure to follow up on what has been said and agreed upon - if you promised to do something, make sure you do it. This helps keep the trust between you and your staff, and shows that you care about their problems and have their best interest at heart.
It’s also crucial to demonstrate integrity and keep the situation between the people involved - nothing good comes from gossiping about people behind their back. Once a compromise is reached, there’s no need to keep going back over what was said and done, it’s time to let the situation go and move on.
Want to Improve Your Conflict Resolution Skills?
In the next article in this series, Conflict Resolution 101, we will be taking a deeper look at the strategies, theories, and models behind effective conflict resolution in the workplace.
However, conflict resolution is only one of many essential skills required of an exceptional leader. If you’re looking to improve your conflict resolution skills and general approach to leadership, our Level 3 Team Leader Apprenticeship would be perfect for you.
This programme is currently 95% funded by the ESFA and covers the fundamentals skills needed to resolve conflict and much more, including:
- Developing communication styles and approaches
- Building assertive relationships
- Defining and using emotional intelligence
- Managing team dynamics
- Motivating the team
- Creating self-awareness
- Role-modelling leadership behaviours
- Building trust
- Providing effective feedback
- Coaching for success
Until next time...