Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Resolving workplace conflict:

Workplace confrontation and conflict happen in every workplace, but there are simple steps to take to help resolve tension.
By Maria Forrest
Date: November 08 2013
Tags: work,
Editor Rating:

Workplace confrontations never happen. Do they?

Of course they do! In every workplace. When you throw a group of people together for up to 4, 7, 10 or more hours a day, you will find yourself in some type of confrontation or another.

Many people fear that they will be unable to adequately respond to work place confrontations as they crop up.

But there are four simple steps to take to try to solve workplace confrontations when they arise.

1.  Get all the sides of the story

  • It is imperative that you get all sides of a story before you react or respond. Although some people find it helpful to have discussions with all parties, if tensions are still high, you may want to speak with people individually. Whatever way you choose to get the information, make sure that you listen to everyone before making any decisions.

2.  Identify the actual problem

  • Too often, people embroiled in an office conflict get caught up in the ‘small stuff’. Perhaps they were offended by a co-worker’s tone in an email or believe that they were slighted during a meeting, or around the staff room over morning coffee.
  • If you would like to resolve the conflict successfully, you must identify the actual problem, instead of focusing on small details. The real problem may be relatively simple and between two people only, or it may be as complex as an office-wide communication problem. Whatever the problem is, you can only solve it after you have identified it.

3.  Do not be swayed by office politics

  • Although most people like to believe that they can be completely objective when it comes to office conflicts, the fact is office politics exist!
  • If you want to resolve a conflict as easily as possible, you must remain objective and uninfluenced by politics. If you are worried that you are being swayed, seek advice from a trusted mentor - someone who is not as close to the situation may have better insight.

4.  Commit to follow up

  • After you help resolve an office conflict, you should commit to all parties that you will follow up.
  • Whether the follow up takes place in two days or two months depends entirely on the situation, but a follow up meeting will let people know that you take their conflicts – and their agreement to resolve differences – seriously.

Workplace confrontations are a part of life. If you take the time to listen to all sides of the story, identify the problem, remain objective and commit to a regular follow up, you will find that no confrontation is too difficult to solve.

As is true with most things in the workplace, conflict resolution is a skill that requires patience, practice and reflection. Every time you are involved in a workplace confrontation, take some time afterwards to reflect on how you handled it.

If you feel that certain things went very well, repeat them in the future. If other areas need additional refinement, focus on fixing those issues the next time you help resolve a conflict at work.

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