We all want to work together harmoniously, pleasantly, and fairly. However, no matter how much we try to create a congenial work environment, conflict in the workplace is unavoidable. We experience it for various reasons, including differences in goals and personal styles. A conflict can be healthy or unhealthy depending on how it is handled.

As a leader,  you have the responsibility to address it in a constructive way. Having a toolkit of approaches to resolve conflicts would be best for your team and the company. Here are five essential steps that you and your employees/co-workers can apply should a conflict of any type arises.

1. Acknowledge the conflict

Admitting that’s there’s a problem is the first step that you need to do to properly handle and resolve a conflict. As David Augsburger, author and one of the pioneers of crosscultural pastoral counselling, once said, “The more we run from conflict, the more it masters us; the more we try to avoid it, the more it controls us; the less we fear conflict, the less it confuses us; the less we deny our differences, the less they divide us.”

Think about your role in the situation and the factors that led to the creation of the problem. Focus on the problem and do not make it a personal issue.

2. Address the conflict sooner rather than later

Holding grudges against a person/some people you work with isn’t healthy for you and the company. A conflict will only worsen if you wait for it to blow over by itself. So it’s best if you take the initiative to bring up the problem. A Workplace Options study found that eight out of ten employees talk to their co-workers about a job-related problem.

You can send them a message or email, but an in-person discussion is the best way to deal with the conflict. It’s important that you choose the right time and place to address the issue. Do it in an undisturbed location when you are both (or all the conflicting parties are) free to talk.

3. Avoid assumptions and listen to their perspective

We all have our reasons for doing the things that we do. If somebody has done or said something that irked you, simply ask what his/her reason is for acting that way or saying those things. Inquiring can make a world of difference. Making assumptions and accusations will only worsen the conflict and could completely ruin your relationship.

When discussing the issue, let them hear your side, but give them time also to express their thoughts and feelings. Make sure that you really listen to their perspective and consider what they feel and have to say.

4. Apologize for your mistakes and appreciate the other party

Businessman and author Stephen Covey said, “It takes a great deal of character strength to apologize quickly out of one’s heart rather than out of pity. A person must possess himself and have a deep sense of security in fundamental principles and values in order to genuinely apologize.” Owning up to your wrongdoing and contribution to the dispute is a sign of strength. Apologize for the things that you’ve done or said, express regret, and take responsibility for your actions.

It will also help if you show that you still appreciate the other person. Despite your disagreement or issue, there must still be something positive about him/her. Praise and thank him/her regarding a previous work and even for his/her willingness and effort to resolve the conflict.

5. Ask for mediation

Sometimes a conflict can get large that participants need outside help to resolve it. That’s totally okay. You may want to involve another co-worker, a business coach, your manager, or a human resources department personnel. Whoever you choose, that third party should be someone that you can trust to help you find a solution to your issue.

If you think and feel that you’ve already talked over the problem (with or without outside help), you can now develop a conflict-resolution plan. Find ways on how you can compromise and then follow through on your resolution plan so you can work together more effectively in the future.

Conflicts are a normal part of any organizational setting and should never be avoided or concealed.  Dealing with and resolving them constructively is key to productivity, collaboration, and cordial relations in the workplace. Follow the steps we mentioned, bury the hatchet, and work well together for your own personal and professional growth.

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