5 Steps to Resolving Conflict at Work

Dale Carnegie once said, “You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.”

Undeniably, a progressive business culture, living, breathing values, self-aware leadership, and accompanied use of positive relationship principles, are all excellent mitigators of workplace hostilities.

Equally, the world is changing faster than ever. Heightened stress levels, emotions and conflict are all potential outcomes of that ever-present need to achieve exceptional results amidst a cascade of ongoing transformation.

It can be helpful to view workplace disputes as ‘conflicting opinions’ – a natural consequence of the ideas and personalities of dedicated people who care about their performance, their colleagues, and their organisation. We are, by nature, emotional creatures. Equally, if unmanaged and unaddressed, these bones of contention can have a hugely negative impact on those involved, on team morale and on business performance overall.

Like it or not, conflict resolution skills are a necessity in a leader’s make-up. Like an airplane ejector seat, we might hope that we’ll never have to use them, but we’re sure glad they’re there when we need them!

A Dale Carnegie Research Study found, “A manager’s ability to build strong relationships with employees, build strong team interaction and lead in a ‘person-centred’ way creates an engaging environment in which employees can perform at the highest possible level.”

Nonetheless, even the most engaging leader will need to understand and implement a practical range of conflict resolution strategies when the need arises.

Wondering where to begin?  Here are 5 Steps to Resolving Conflict

Understand your ‘Conflict Resolution Profile’

Conflict resolution profiling is a little like behavioural or personality profiling, providing leaders with a detailed analysis of their current approach to handling conflicts. By profiling your current approaches, you’ll understand where you’re strong and discover the holes in your game that will need shoring up for you to become a skilled arbitrator of workplace harmony.

Have a plan

It’s time to pull out a notepad and pen! Before getting started, define the specifics around the issue at hand; be clear on who are the involved parties and your preliminary understanding of the problem; define a plan of action  – simply, itemise the steps you’ll take to help address the dispute; be clear on your goals for the process, stating clearly the positive results you expect to achieve from managing the situation; finally, establish an accountability partner, a respected peer, line manager, or coach who can hold you to account to ensure you deliver on your actions.

Seek to understand

When addressing colleagues, ask questions to identify and understand the root cause of the problem. The answers they provide will be grist for the mill to explore ways to improve the situation. Once clear, be sure to address the issue at hand directly and diplomatically. As a manager / leader, be the light that guides the way forward; stay neutral and focus on positive outcomes.

Be appreciative

As part of the discourse, remind your team players that they’re bigger than the dispute! Talk to their strengths and past achievements, especially regarding the value they add to the team. Remind them how they’ve handled similar situations with specific examples of where they’ve delivered improved team performance and engagement.

Listen first and be calm and respectful

Role model for your team members the type of effective listening and calm, friendly and positive dialogue that helps heal rifts and rebuild bridges. This will help to inspire a measured communication style between your team members. And, however you may feel about the issue personally, always show respect for the other person’s opinions or views.

And remember…

As we lead our teams through the passing storms of workplace conflict, we can achieve so much more than repairing division; we can seize on opportunities to deliver evidence-based feedback, improve communication, and positively enhance the culture and long-term performance of our team.

In this article we have provided a glimpse into some approaches for handling conflict resolution.

For a deeper dive on this fascinating subject, including a conflict profile assessment, visit our resources section and download Internal Conflict Resolution Guidebook, which details a variety of practical tools and techniques to sharpen your conflict resolution skills.

Juliette Dennett is Managing Director of Dale Carnegie Northern England, as well as the first female President of the International Dale Carnegie Franchise Association,  a role which sees her travel the globe and serve on a number of SLT committees for the organisation.

 With over 25 years’ experience she is an expert in senior team facilitation, working with many successful, high-performing executive teams. Juliette is a strong advocate of being one high-performing team, promoting working together to enable individual success. She has designed and delivered culture, leadership, and performance solutions to major international organisations.