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Top 10 tips for conflict resolution

A degree of conflict is inevitable in any team or organisation. As a leader or manager, handling conflict within your team is a key skill that can help to ensure your team continues to be effective and relationships between individuals remain healthy and productive. Following these suggestions will help you to take action effectively if conflict occurs in your team.
  1. Decide when it is important to confront the other person. In some instances it may not be worthwhile as the issue may not be important to you or it may be worth giving in on the issue in the interest of the longer term relationship. The key here is that you believe you have the choice as to how you deal with the conflict and in this way, you are in control and should feel powerful in conflict situations.
  2. Picture the situation as you would like it to be and how you see the conversation with the other person going. Visualise yourself dealing with the other person successfully and put as much detail into the visualisation as you can. Try to avoid imagining the worst possible outcome as this will reduce your power in dealing with the conflict.
  3. Practise assertiveness. Focus on expressing how you feel in a way that is not aggressive. Describe the behaviour of the other person, the effect of their behaviour on you and what you need them to do differently in the future to avoid further conflicts e.g. "You made a comment about my department at the meeting today which made it appear that I didn't know what was going on in my department. I am disappointed, angry etc. In future I would ask you to make any comments you may have to me directly."  By using this approach, the power lies with the assertive person as they expresses their feelings and decide what action the other person is to take to ensure their needs are respected in the future. This approach differs from aggression as the focus is on solving the problem without offending the other person or damaging the relationship.
  4. Step back! Try to look objectively at the conflict. Don't deal with the issue when you are very angry or emotional. In stepping back, put yourself in the other person's position and try to see the problem from their point of view. When you feel calmer, approach the other person, ensuring you are in control. In this way you can avoid becoming aggressive or emotional and remain focused on the issues and the facts.
  5. Explore the concerns of the other person. Assess the current situation by asking questions and try to avoid making statements about our point of view until the other person's position is clearly understood. Although this may be very difficult to do in reality, it ensures the other person feels their position has been heard and therefore be more open to listening to yours. If you find that you are not then being heard, remind the other person of how you heard and understood their position and how you need to have the same treatment. Also remember that the only thing other people know about us is our behaviour as they don't necessarily understand the feelings underlying that behaviour.
  6. Focus on issues rather than personalities. Try not to personalise the discussion. Instead focus on the issues causing conflict as opposed to any personality factors. In doing this, watch for any signals you may be getting from the other person that might indicate how they really feel e.g. body language, tone of voice etc.
  7. Invite a free expression of feelings or frustrations regarding the conflict from the other person once a safe environment has been created. To do this, the boundaries or controls need to be clear where both people understand the goal or desired outcome, along with the need to say how they feel without being interrupted, as a first step to gaining understanding.
  8. Ask why the other person cares about the outcome and what needs are threatened for them by the conflict. Choose which strategy is appropriate for you in terms of the outcome and how your needs compare to those of the other person e.g. accommodating, avoiding, competing etc.
  9. Brainstorm - Look for a way forward by jointly brainstorming possible solutions or alternatives. Encourage all those involved in the conflict to participate and share their ideas.
  10. Agree an action plan. Who will do what, when and how. Monitor progress and review within an agreed period. Move on from the conflict once it has been resolved. Once the conflict has been dealt with both parties should try to develop their working relationship in the future by building on the experience gained. If the issue has been tackled and resolved, it can be a means to actually developing the depth of understanding, which two people have for each other and towards building respect towards each other in the future.
TIPS ON CONFLICT RESOLUTION
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