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February 16, 2024

8 Techniques to Manage Conflict Effectively


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Conflicts tend to make us uncomfortable, but with effective conflict management skills, we can turn disagreements and misunderstandings into opportunities for growth. In this article, we will look at how to manage conflict and why it is crucial for a harmonious, productive work environment and provide practical strategies for handling conflicts professionally.

Conflict is an inevitable part of most human relationships. Spend enough time with another human being and disagreements or differences in opinion will occur, whether at work, school or at home. While workplace conflict may be unavoidable, how we manage and navigate it can make all the difference. 

Workplace conflicts are generally unpleasant, but with the right mindset and effective conflict-handling techniques, learning to manage conflict has beneficial outcomes.
Workplace conflicts are generally unpleasant, but with the right mindset and effective conflict-handling techniques, learning to manage conflict has beneficial outcomes.

Managing Workplace Conflict

At the workplace, managing conflict capably is essential for a harmonious and productive work environment. While dealing with conflict is generally unpleasant, if handled correctly, it can be an opportunity to strengthen bonds and improve relationships. Whether you are a manager, team leader or employee, learning conflict resolution techniques will stand you in good stead.

Maintaining productivity and morale

Unresolved conflicts can have a detrimental impact on productivity and morale within a team or organisation. When conflicts are left unaddressed, they can fester and create a toxic work environment, leading to decreased motivation and engagement among employees. Finding an effective settlement will bring relief to team members, allowing them to work without the stress and distraction of a dispute hanging over their heads.

Preventing escalation

Managing conflict effectively can prevent minor disagreements from escalating into major issues that disrupt the workflow and create tension among team members. By managing conflicts in a timely and constructive manner, organisations can avoid the negative consequences of unresolved disputes and maintain a harmonious work environment.

Preserving relationships

If left unaddressed or mishandled, conflicts can strain relationships. Future disagreements are more likely to happen as each party eyes the other with suspicion or mistrust, creating a vicious cycle. The relationship becomes more difficult to salvage the longer the original conflict remains unresolved and as more grievances are piled on. Moreover, one broken relationship can affect the rest of the team or department, leading to tension, low morale and productivity.

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Preserving relationships to maintain a cordial and productive work environment is reason enough to get better at handling conflict.
Preserving relationships to maintain a cordial and productive work environment is reason enough to get better at handling conflict.

Promoting innovation and creativity

It may run counter to common belief, but constructive conflict may lead to the generation of new ideas and innovative solutions. When team members feel comfortable expressing diverse viewpoints or challenging the status quo, it can spark creativity and lead to different ways of doing things.

8 Techniques for conflict management

We would all like to resolve conflicts in a professional and timely manner, learn from them and get back to business. So here are some conflict resolution skills and techniques you can try when the need arises.

1. Stay calm and collected to manage conflict

The first step to effectively manage conflict is maintaining your composure. Emotions can run high in the heat of a disagreement, but staying calm allows for clear thinking and rational decision-making. Whether you are a mediator or one of the parties in a conflict, your response can escalate or neutralize the situation. Also, keeping a cool head will help you better interpret unspoken messages and the feelings of others. However, if you have a temper, are prone to shutting down completely or have other unhealthy reactions to conflict, it will take practice and intention to change these behaviours. 

The first step in handling conflict is to manage your stress, temper or emotions and keep a cool head.
The first step in handling conflict is to manage your stress, temper or emotions and keep a cool head.

2. Practice active listening

Active listening and empathy are fundamental skills for resolving conflicts. Ensure that you understand the other person’s perspective before expressing your own. This not only demonstrates respect but also lays the foundation for a more empathetic conversation. Each party should have equal time to air their views and express their concerns. Pay attention to non-verbal signals and body language while keeping your non-aggressive. You can learn a lot by really listening to understand. Delve into more detail on active listening with our article.

3. Analyze and define the issue

Clarifying the source of the conflict will help you understand how the problem arose. If you are mediating, obtain as much information as possible from both sides and third parties if necessary. Ask questions until you have a reasonably complete picture. If you are one of the parties in a conflict, ask yourself what triggered the disagreement and why you are angry or upset. Consider if there are other ways to achieve your objectives. When in discussion, focus on the issue at hand. Both parties should have a mutual understanding of what the conflict is about to facilitate a targeted and effective resolution.

Related Reading  Harness the Potential of Active Listening

4. Choose an appropriate time and place for conflict management

While we may want to sort out the problem as soon as possible, it would be wiser to pick a time and space that is more conducive to arriving at an agreeable solution. For example, you would want to avoid addressing sensitive or confidential issues in public or high-stress environments. Find a neutral space that is safe, private and comfortable. Do not discuss in the office or workspace of either party as this may influence the balance of power.

5. Separate the person from the problem

When conflicts arise, emotions run high and we may attach blame to people instead of seeing the issue for what it is. Blaming a person rarely solves the problem or brings about a happy outcome. Instead, the other party will likely feel offended or see it as a personal attack, thus harming the relationship even further. Stay focused on the problem and make it clear that both parties should work on a solution. Try to see the issue from the other party’s eyes and withhold judgment while you’re at it. Discuss each other’s wants and perceptions, and try not to make assumptions about their intentions.

Refrain from blaming others as this will only bring a counterattack or make the other person defensive and close themselves off from the conversation.
Refrain from blaming others as this will only bring a counterattack or make the other person defensive and close themselves off from the conversation.

6. Involve a third party if necessary

You may wish to bring an external person or neutral third party to the discussion to help reach a better resolution. Some conflicts may be more complex and require expert insight to provide mutually acceptable solutions. Some may be highly emotional or likely to escalate. Sometimes, a third party’s intervention might turn a lose-lose situation into a win-win.

7. Work towards understanding to manage conflict effectively

Realise that you are not there to win at all costs. Being right may win the argument, but it does not come close to solving the problem. Again, we come back to empathy, managing our emotions and trying to see the other person’s point of view. Both parties should come to the table to reach a solution and not just vent their frustrations. You may not come to a resolution with just one discussion, so agree to disagree and set a time for the next conversation. However, there should be progress in terms of finding common ground and points of agreement, no matter how small. In the meantime, try to maintain mutual respect.

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Your aim should be to find a mutually acceptable solution and ensure the same issue does not occur again, not to win the argument
Your aim should be to find a mutually acceptable solution and ensure the same issue does not occur again, not to win the argument

8. Problem-solve for the future

When arriving at a resolution, make it clear and specific. Ensure both parties know their roles and the details involved. Summarise the resolution and share it with all relevant parties. Use the opportunity to solve the root cause of the problem and put preventive measures or policies in place so the conflict does not arise again. Keep an eye on the issue and follow-up actions to ensure the conflict has been well and truly resolved. Internalise the lessons learnt and integrate a smoother, more harmonious way of working.

“Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.”

Mahatma Gandhi had certainly seen his fair share of disagreements to come up with this quote. When effectively managed and resolved, conflicts can be opportunities for growth, understanding and improved relationships. Preserving relationships, enhancing communication and seeking understanding will help us in both our professional and personal lives. Finally, remember to pick your battles carefully, know when to let go and be willing to forgive.

There is so much more to be said on how to manage conflict effectively. Mastering conflict resolution techniques through performance coaching can bring out the best version of yourself. Get in touch with us.

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