Angry male and female colleagues argue over paperwork at corporate team meeting, annoyed coworkers rivals man woman disputing about documents in office, gender rivalry, conflicts at work concept

As unpleasant and emotionally-taxing as conflicts can be, they are also an important part of communication that, if handled properly, can lead to improved mutual understanding and rapport between people who ultimately have very different perspectives, ideas, ways of thinking, and values.

Conflict can arise in all aspects of a person’s life – there can be conflict between friends, family members, intimate partners, and, sure enough, conflict is also very common in the workplace, among colleagues. Indeed, conflicts at work can be especially unpleasant and resolving them can be very difficult because, often, the participants in the conflict are neither friends nor do they have any incentive to get along, other than the fact that they will still need to work together. Furthermore, if the conflict isn’t resolved, it may eventually lower the morale of the entire team and get other people involved, causing a significant decrease in productivity.

However, while conflicts in the workplace can be a tricky and sensitive subject, there is no shortage of effective techniques that can help reconcile even the most disagreeable of people, so long as the person initiating the reconciliation is led by logic and reason as opposed to ego and emotions.



What makes work-related conflicts so difficult

One of the main things that sets apart conflicts at work compared to ones in people’s personal life is that intimate partners, family members, and friends know one another much more closely and are more easily able to put themselves in the shoes of whomever they are having a conflict with (even if they often choose not to).

On the other hand, the participants in a conflict at the workplace are not as close and often don’t know much about one another’s backgrounds, which makes it a lot more difficult to see the other person’s perspective and understand where they are coming from with regard to the conflict.

This, in turn, is where the first steps towards resolving a work-related conflict must be made. Whether you are involved in the conflict or are someone in charge of the people who are arguing, you need to understand that, for there to be a successful resolution, the two sides of the conflict need to first be able to see where the other person’s motivations lie. This can be very tricky to do for someone with low levels of empathy, but if that person is even partially able to put themselves in the opposing side’s shoes, that would still mark significant progress towards a successful resolution of the conflict.

De-escalate

Before any constructive work can be done towards coming up with a solution for the conflict, the tensions and emotions must subside, or else the people involved would have limited ability to think and talk rationally due to them still being overcome with emotion. No matter whether you are an impartial arbiter of the conflict or a person involved in it, you need to first make sure that everyone cools off before engaging in a conversation related to the conflict’s subject.

Determine the conflict’s main source

Often, when there’s a conflict, in their attempts to provide arguments for their case, the sides involved would often get off the main subject and focus on other topics and points of disagreement that aren’t necessarily related to the main subject. This could make it very difficult to find an effective resolution to the conflict since, at a certain point, it is no longer clear what that conflict is about. Therefore, another very important step that will bring you a closer to a successful outcome is to refocus the entire conversation and go back to the conflict’s main source. Only once the initial subject gets determined can you move on to the next step, which will be to start thinking about a potential solution.

Find a common ground

It is very difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile polar opposites. However, the good news is that, in spite of our differences, we are all humans, and we always have something in common with one another. Your goal as a person who wants to come up with an effective resolution to a workplace conflict is to find a common ground related to the conflict’s subject between the two sides and work from there. The more things you can find that both sides can agree on, the better. The best case scenario is if the two sides come to the agreement that it would be in their mutual interest to work towards a solution that would be acceptable to both of them. That way, the entire process will be much easier, and the conflicting sides will be willing to cooperate in order to find the best solution to the problem.

Require both sides to meet half-way

Ultimately, no matter how many common things there may be between the people involved in the conflict, there will always remain something they cannot agree on, at which point you need to convince them that, to reach the most effective resolution, both sides would need to make some compromises. It’s very rare for only one of the sides involved to be at fault, so, in most cases, effort must be made by both to reconcile their differences and work together towards the most desirable outcome. Obviously, this is easier to do if you are in a position of authority and the people involved in the conflict are your subordinates. However, even if you are on one side of the conflict, you need to both be ready to make compromises and do your best to convince the other side that it needs to do the same.



Become informed

Mediating workplace conflicts or being involved in them is never an easy thing and if you aren’t well aware of the best techniques to quickly find an effective resolution, you can quickly get lost in a pointless and frustrating negative feedback loop, where each side is simply trying to “get back” at the other, without coming any closer to any sort of agreement. The good news is that there are a lot of effective tools, methods, and techniques for any type of workplace conflict that can help reconcile even the most stubborn of people. You can learn about them from specialized books or from online resources, but a much quicker way, that will directly point you to the information you need, while also providing you with in-depth details, is to take part in an conflict resolution class that puts heavy focus on workplace conflicts. That way, you will quickly learn how to handle a wide variety of conflict situations in your workplace and how to find the most optimal solution in every scenario.

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