October 08, 2012
How to resolve conflict: Do's and don'ts

Does your workplace have a policy or guidance on how to resolve conflict? In order to keep your employees safe and happy, and to keep your organization productive and efficient, it's crucial for you to understand how to manage and prevent workplace conflict and how to train your supervisors.

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How your organization handles workplace conflict can affect many areas including turnover, productivity, and absenteeism. In a recent BLR webinar, Di Ann Sanchez outlined the importance of addressing conflict and gave us some guidance on the do’s and don’ts of resolving it.

How to Resolve Conflict: Why is This Important?

Interpersonal conflict is common and creates a whole host of potential problems for employers. The effects of conflict include:

  • Lost productivity
  • Poor employee health and potential accidents
  • Increased disciplinary needs
  • Increased employee turnover
  • Aggression or violence in the workplace
  • Wasted time dealing with issues
  • Increased absenteeism

With such serious consequences, it’s easy to see the importance of handling conflict effectively.

How to Resolve Conflict: The "Dos"

When resolving conflict, there are several actions you should take to resolve it most effectively. Do:

  • Observe the situation. "Carefully watch the conflict in action when possible. Can you tell what kind of conflict it is?" Sanchez advised.
  • Determine if the level of conflict is appropriate for the seriousness of the situation. De-escalate the situation by using neutral statements and avoiding "you" statements such as "you seem angry." Soften your tone, take a break if there is heated argument, and acknowledge each individual’s point of view.
  • Acknowledge without blame or hostility that the conflict exists. Actively listen intently to each side. Take notes and ask for examples.
  • Identify how the behavior is causing a roadblock to a good workplace relationship.
  • Ask "what do you need from me in order for me to help you resolve this issue?"

How to Resolve Conflict: The "Don’ts"

Likewise, there are certain behaviors to avoid when handling conflict. Don’t:

  • Say to employees "Don’t worry; I will handle it for you." You want to teach your employees to handle the conflict themselves. It is all employees’ responsibility to take care of conflict; teach them how to deal with it.
  • Escalate the behavior.
  • Use "you" in speaking, as in "you are wrong," or "you have issues."
  • Use defensive or hostile body language like rolling eyes, crossing arms, etc.
  • Take sides. Try to remain neutral in employee conflicts.
  • Ignore hostile conflict. Ignoring the situation can lead to workplace violence.

For more information on how to resolve conflict in the workplace, order the webinar recording of "Conflict Management for Supervisors and HR: Keep the Peace and Boost Productivity." To register for a future webinar, visit http://catalog.blr.com/audio.

Di Ann Sanchez, SPHR, is the founder and president of DAS HR Consulting LLC, a HUB-certified firm focused on creative and non-traditional human resources programs and services. Ms. Sanchez has more than 25 years of experience and has held executive human resources positions with both private and public companies.

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