Five Stages of Workplace Conflict Resolution

Workplace conflict can reduce morale and cost organizations millions of dollars in productivity losses. To manage this issue, managers should mentally prepare and remember to lead by example while remaining calm and logical. Although disputes vary, several strategies form a helpful framework for conflict resolution. It is important to listen before offering suggestions and guide workers towards common goals.

Before Conflicts Take Place

Managers should seek to develop problem-solving skills in order to avoid before conflicts they occur. Individuals intrinsically fall into an emotionally elevated, defensive mindset when conflicts occur. During these times, organizational leaders must guide staff members past their emotions and towards the real issue. The goal is to develop respect and empathy between the disputing groups and encourage them to work together towards an agreement. It is the administrator’s obligation to facilitate an accord by maintaining a calm and respectful atmosphere.

Despite the outcome, the managers must conclude disputes quickly, even if both sides remain in disagreement but have at least established mutual respect for each other’s opinions. During the negotiation, it is important to observe body language to gain a true understanding of what staff members are expressing and coach the employees to compartmentalize their emotions and instead focus on the facts.

At this stage, various anger management techniques can help ease tensions and prevent negotiations from erupting into emotion-fueled dialogues. It is important to remain flexible during negotiations, as each situation will require slightly varying moderation. Even so, mentally rehearsing resolution strategies can help managers respond efficiently during conflicts.

Conflict Resolution Strategies

When disagreements arise, it helps to have a flexible plan beforehand. Mangers can commit five basic strategies to memory and equip themselves with tools to maintain office harmony.

Stage One: Convene with the Involved Parties Separately

Initially, hear the arguments separately so both sides can calmly and clearly state their grievances. Additionally, enter the talks with an unbiased opinion; once everyone voices their concerns, a new solution may arise based on these facts. Remind employees that each side has valid grievances. Ultimately, the goal is to find a solution rather than assign blame. This is the first step towards clearly understanding what motivates the employees.

Stage Two: Act Quickly to Resolve the Conflict

By delaying action, a manager can inadvertently allow a serious issue to ignite into an unfortunate disaster. Managers can recognize and resolve certain issues with brevity; however, they must scrutinize and control all disagreements despite their intensity.

Stage Three: Understand and Discuss the Situation Empathetically

The negotiator must help the employees understand why they must cooperate with each other to resolve the dispute. During this stage, the manager should only interject to confirm the presented facts. This allows the distressed parties to vent and fully express their concerns. Managers who listen well are more likely foster cooperation.

Stage Four: Determine Mutual Goals

The manager must clarify how conflict often impedes organizational productivity. More than likely, one or both parties feel as though the other is committing an act meant to personally impair them.

Identifying the ultimate conflict is the starting point for resolution. It is better to present the event as the result of circumstances rather than individuals. Once the manager leads both groups to this conclusion, they must make sure all parties agree on the nature of the real issue. When opposing interests fully understand each other’s viewpoints, they are more prepared to work towards a consensus, because they are now aware of the real motivations and objectives behind a dispute.

Stage Five: Find a Consensus among the Parties

Once the administrator reveals the true issue, they can reinforce the facts and evaluate solutions. The key is to remain flexible until a common solution arises. As a group, employees can explore various options and weigh which ones offer the most acceptable outcome. By ensuring all interested parties participate, managers can increase the likelihood of a mutually supported outcome.

While it is human nature for disagreements to occur when personal perspectives clash, managers must make sure productivity does not suffer. The best way to prepare for these events is to work on developing skills to help guide the disputing parties towards common goals. It is the manager’s role to represent and advocate logic during emotionally unsettling interactions. By following a basic conflict-solving outline, managers can resolve disagreements with mutually beneficial agreements. While disputing staff members may feel inclined to prove who is right or wrong, organizational leaders must be the voice of reason and remind workers to meet company goals first.

Learn More

Founded in 1948, Brandeis University is an internationally recognized research institution with the intimacy and personal attention of a small liberal arts college. Brandeis University is pleased to offer its M.S. in Project and Program Management (MSPPM) in a convenient online format for working professionals interested in project management.



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