Conflicts are the sore spots of every organization. They tend to form cracks in the whole team’s morale because conflict doesn’t just affect the individuals involved in it, but it also affects the other team members.
When you are a project manager or the lead person in an organization, it is your job that the conflict is resolved quickly and effectively, because if you are not seen as the person who can solve these conflicts/ problems then the team will never respect you fully and you won’t be deemed fit to lead the pack.
There are a lot of different conflict resolution techniques that you can apply if you are in such a position to make a change or impact. Many of these techniques are dependent on your own personal will because if you are not following those principles yourself, it can raise questions on your credibility. The rest of the techniques are fairly straight forward and can be applied to every tense environment.
Let’s take a look at the 20 most effective conflict resolution strategies that can help you take care of any present or brewing dispute in your company or team.
1. Define Acceptable Behavior
First of all, you should develop a proper relationship with your team. This relationship can help you weed out the conflicts, that are even in the development state.
When you get a sense of the circumstances that normally cause conflicts, you can make some effective ground rules that will let the team stay clear of a dispute with each other.
These measures you’ll take or the ground rules you’ll set, can include:
- Writing a specific job description to enunciate the roles of the team members properly
- Creating a discussion framework that can properly spread out the details on how the meeting or conversation is going to go
- Making the hierarchy crystal clear so that everyone knows who they are immediately answerable to about their work
- Defining the business practices that will be used in the project
- Choosing project management tools wisely because that will help you take care of the development and tracking of all of the activities of the team and the company
- You can even hold meetings or seminars to properly educate your employees about team building and leadership development that will help mold them perfect for the future
The more focus you put on setting these ground rules or taking these measures, the better the team will be and vice versa.
2. Don’t Avoid Conflict
Of course, if you are the manager and there is a conflict brewing in the office, you should take care of it right away and not let it affect the workflow. But sometimes, letting the team members work things out by themselves is a good idea as well.
But generally, when you are the manager, you have the authority to set things straight and you should act accordingly to your position.
3. Pause, breathe and decide on next steps
Even if you are the manager and you always have the upper hand when breaking up a conflict, you really get surprised when a surprise conflict arises in a meeting room or email, between you or the employee, or among employees.
When any of these phenomena happen, you should remain calm and not get personal or stressed. You should decide wisely, whether you should set them straight right there and then or take them somewhere else to properly resolve the conflict.
4. Address the issue privately
When you think that the issue can be calmly resolved and there is no need to call out, those involved, in public, you should take them somewhere private and address the situation there. This will allow them to tell you what actually happened instead of fighting needlessly in the public, without anyone getting justice.
5. Choose an appropriate medium
Just like addressing the issue in private, there are some other mediums as well where you don’t have to do conflict resolution in person and you can chat, call or email them. This will help you maintain a perfect distance between the employees and among themselves.
This technique is needed when the employees involved can’t even stand each other’s presence and you have to individually hear them out instead of them shouting each other even in your presence, which can elevate the situation some more.
6. Choose the environment wisely
Just like choosing the medium of conversation and getting the conflict resolved enough that the employees agree to see each other with you present, you can even choose a different environment like a coffee shop or any neutral place outside the office. This will help them relax and see things from a different perspective which will eventually lead to peace between them.
7. Start with a Compliment
After you have taken the involved parties outside of the conflict zone, you can start a formal conflict resolution intervention of sorts. This will help you address the problem head-on and provide results.
Make them feel comfortable and not make anyone the bad guy before being absolutely sure. Or not even them. Because you are attacking the problem that has risen, not the person.
Always start with a compliment that is applied to both of the parties like “You both are cherished employees of the company”. Secondly, hear them both out fully and you should probe them that they should let it all out and spare no details.
Then and only then, can you get to the bottom of the story and get a proper idea about what went wrong between them.
8. Create an Opening for Communication
Once the medium is decided, you have paid the initial compliments and set up a comfortable environment which is not stressful at all, you can start addressing them individually and get to the bottom of the conflict.
You should probe them and simultaneously step back, which will allow them the feel heard and also that no pressurized by your presence in the matter.
9. Use active listening techniques
Active listening techniques are amazing. These are techniques that will help you in your conflict resolution and also make you a better human being because people will find you responsive and not out of touch when you will listen to them.
In conflict resolution, active listening techniques can help you be more responsive to the employees when they are droning on about their problems.
The stuff that they are saying can be boring or interesting, either way, you have to show slight head, hand or body responses like a nod or an expression, which will let them know that you are attentive and not just passing your time sitting there.
10. Don’t Jump to Conclusions
The first rule of conflict resolution is that you must be completely unbiased and not appear inclined to side with one employee just because the other employee has been causing trouble for some time.
You should hear them out. Comprehend all of the things that are said in the meeting and then form an opinion based on the evidence at hand. Always get a sense of the history that caused the conflict and be wise in your judgment.
11. Repeat everything you heard
Before making a judgment, you should hear them properly and then repeat everything they said in that meeting. This can be hard if you are not committed to the conflict resolution process. But if you are committed, then this will be a piece of cake.
What is the point of this? The point is that when you repeat everything they said, it solidifies their confidence in you that you are listening to what they said and also you are giving them a chance to alter your understanding if you didn’t hear something clearly.
12. Think Opportunistically, Not Punitively
As a manager, when the time comes that you must pass judgment on someone and teach them a lesson, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to fire them or give them a real battering that they are scared to even talk in front of you again.
No, that is a time when your restraint can mean a lot to someone and can prove to be a teaching moment for you. Sure, there are times when stern punishment is necessary, but most of the time you can let them get off with a warning.
13. Use “I” statements to address any emotions in the conversation
“I” statements are necessary for conflict resolution when you are in the middle of the whole process. These will let you take the blame off of both the parties and express what you felt not what they made you feel.
These statements can be like, “I felt betrayed when the project deadlines, that was promised to me, were not delivered on time”, rather than “Why didn’t you meet those deadlines on time Bryan? It’s your fault that the company went under”.
By using the I statement, the project manager took the focus away from Bryan but still made him realize that he did something wrong which should not have happened.
14. Offer Guidance, Not Solutions
When you are going through the process of conflict resolution, you should always be the bigger entity in the conversation and act your role even if the employees are older than you. Your role makes you wiser not your age.
Don’t jump ships every two seconds and bombard the whole conversation with a billion solutions that are just to solve a single issue and not the whole problem that is made up of these small issues.
To eradicate the problem, a good manager should offer his guidance and how his/her employees should act on that guidance to be successful.
15. Lean into the silences
During conflict resolution, sometimes there are awkward silences when the meeting attendees are contemplating on their answers and thinking hard about what they did or didn’t do so that they can have a better argument when they talk next. You are not supposed to fill in those silences.
That silence is an amazing weapon for the conflict resolution meeting because it forces the meeting members to think hard about what they did.
Filling in that silence will degrade that weapon and make the employees feel rushed if you are constantly saying that the one side should speak nor or the other side. Let them take their time.
16. Constructive Criticism
While your managerial role allows you to criticize both of the parties on what they did wrong, you should do that wisely and not prematurely. Take your time and build a constructive criticism argument that will do two things.
First, you would educate them in a friendly manner about what they did wrong, and secondly, it will help you build a more solid relationship with your team because they will still work for you tomorrow if you scold them for a half-hour. But if you do things politely and wisely, they will thank you for it, not fear or hate you in the future.
17. Know when the conflict has won and not you
There might come some issues, where both the parties will have perfect arguments and the whole judgment phase would end up tied between both of them, this is the time when you should know that you are defeated. You can offer guidance but that’s about it and you can’t force them to be nice to each other or resolve the issue.
When things are this serious then you should forward it to HR or the upper management for the final verdict.
18. Don’t Intimidate
As a manager, you are in a higher position that really makes the employees fear you, but you should never abuse that power. You should always hear them out and make constructive criticism while offering guidance.
This will let you cement your relationship with the employees because they will see someone that is wise and trying to help them, rather than some upper management thug who just likes to boss them around and not solve anything.
19. Act Decisively
You should always remember that you are their superior. You have to set them straight but not in a way that they just lose all hope and continue to resist your decision. This is why your decision should be powerful and completely based on the facts and figures presented before you.
You should also remember that the decision you take should be swift and not let the team lingering. This will make you a more decisive leader and people will respect the power of your decision even better in the future.
20. Follow up the whole procedure with an email, call, or a close-out conversation
Once you think that the conflict has been resolved, you can end the meeting. But this should not be the end. You should follow up on this meeting and find out how things have changed after the meeting.
Also, you should set up a call or any form of communication individually or both of the parties together, so that you can actually see the change and then you can completely put this issue to rest and not worry about it anymore.
There are a lot of other conflict resolution techniques out there, but it all comes down to you and how you act using these techniques. This is because the manager always has to be the bigger person and deal with the problems in their team/ company.