Responding to conflict in the workplace

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Handling conflict in the workplace is a sensitive issue which needs to be dealt with carefully.

The following are practical strategies to respond to conflict that may arise:

  • Focus on behaviour and events as opposed to personalities. Rather than generalising a behaviour, discuss what went wrong in a specific situation.
  • Listen to what both parties are saying. Both people might have different perspectives on what went wrong and there may be validity to both sides. Clarify the situation in detail with both parties separately before you discuss it with them together.
  • Identify the points of agreement and disagreement. The points that individuals agree on will help establish some understanding, and disagreements could help create potential solutions.
  • Prioritise which aspects of the argument need to be dealt with the most and address those first. Minor disagreements can be settled over time but major ones should not be set aside.
  • Develop a plan for each individual to work on to resolve that conflict. Setting a time frame and goal for what you expect to achieve out of the plan for both parties will help follow-up assessments of the situation.
  • Follow through your plan by ensuring that the conflict has been resolved over time. This could involve talking to both parties about their perspective on the matter and checking whether the source of conflict has been addressed.

Not all conflicts can be responded to in the same manner. Make sure you understand the situation and listen to the individuals involved carefully before deciding how you will respond.