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Effective Conflict Resolution Techniques

5 Steps to identifying and resolving workplace conflict, from setting the scene to negotiation.

By University Alliance
The Conflict Resolution Process

For the human resources professional, it is important to be able to identify conflict in the workplace and know how to quickly and effectively resolve the underlying issues in a positive way. Resolving conflict in a positive manner can lead to much-improved professional and personal relationships. Mastering a few fundamental conflict resolution skills can enable you to become a better leader, decision-maker, co-worker and friend.

Whether dealing with a disagreement between co-workers or breaking through a standstill in a job contract negotiation, conflict resolution is best approached through a deliberate process that considers the different conflict resolution styles of each participant. Done well, conflict resolution can save relationships, time and resources, while improving productivity and helping move projects forward toward completion.

Five Steps to Conflict Resolution

1. Set the Scene

  • Promoting good relationships through mutual respect and courteous behavior is most important.
  • Keep the problem separate from the person and debate the real issues.
  • Pay attention to each person's interests; listen carefully and respectfully.
  • Be open to exploring all options.

In this phase, active listening skills are essential. Restate or paraphrase others’ positions to be sure you hear and understand them correctly.

2. Gather Information

An important conflict resolution tool, especially in a human resources setting, is the ability to go deeper than the surface to really get an understanding of an individual’s underlying needs, concerns and point of view. To do this effectively, be objective – not personal; and try to view your actions from the standpoint of the other person.

Here are four ways to effectively gather information:

  • Identify the issues. Be clear and concise; don’t try to solve too many problems at once.
  • Listen with empathy. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes and try to really understand how the problem is affecting him or her.
  • Use “I” statements. Rather than starting sentences with “you,” which might sound accusatory or lead to defensiveness, try conveying only how you feel and what you observe: “I feel that this problem is affecting the work environment,” or “I’m hearing that this issue is causing you stress outside the office. Is that accurate?”
  • Clarify feelings. For instance, don’t assume that a supervisor is angry with a staff person when he actually feels frustrated about their conflicting communication styles.

3. Agree to the Problem

Conflict resolution skills can only come into play when the true problem is identified. Be sure everyone agrees on what the problem is before moving forward. Remember that different roles, interests and conflict resolution styles can cause people to perceive problems very differently. Putting aside individual goals to come to a mutually agreeable and beneficial solution is an important step in conflict resolution.

4. Brainstorm Possible Solutions

Gathering the involved parties together for a brainstorming session not only helps to resolve the problem quickly, but it makes everyone feel like they are part of the solution. Here are a few tips for successful brainstorming:

  • Be open to all ideas. Think “quantity” over “quality.” You’ll probably discard most ideas before the exercise is over.
  • Move quickly. Avoid clarifying or evaluating each idea – either can stop creative thinking in its tracks.
  • List every idea. Whoever is listing the ideas should not be in charge of editing them.
  • Expand on each other’s ideas. Ask for input from the group – this is where solutions are born.
  • Be creative. Allow for out-of-the-box ideas, controversy, and even silly ideas. You never know what will inspire the thought that can become the actual solution.

5. Negotiate a Solution

By this point, it’s possible that all parties better understand each other’s positions and have resolved the conflict. If not, it may be necessary to step in and negotiate a mutually satisfying solution.

Negotiation is a strong conflict resolution skill that professionals can apply to countless situations throughout their careers. By learning effective negotiation skills, human resources professionals can quickly distinguish themselves not only as valuable HR professionals, but as true leaders.

Understand Conflict Resolution and Improve Your Leadership Skills

Conflict is a natural part of life that can sometimes make its way into the workplace. As a member of the human resources team, it is your responsibility to help identify and resolve conflict within the workplace. By honing your skills in effective conflict resolution, you can help position yourself as a valuable leader in your organization.

To learn more about conflict resolution, human resource management and other vital business essentials, consider earning a Certificate in Business Essentials & HR Management online from the University of Florida. Participants will advance their functional knowledge and skills across the core business disciplines while gaining tactical expertise and in-depth understanding of the necessary human resource elements that today's organizations require.

Category: Human Resources