When working as part of a team, it is almost inevitable that, at some point, you’ll experience a situation involving conflict – a difference of opinion, a misunderstanding or possibly an outright argument with a colleague.

This is often because, although you may be working towards a shared goal, most teams are made up of people from diverse backgrounds with different personalities, perspectives and opinions. However, conflict doesn’t have to be seen as wholly negative as, if it’s handled well, it can actually be an opportunity for healthy debate, personal growth and support innovation. See if you can achieve this by following our six conflict resolution tips.

1. Address conflict early

Disagreements have the potential to become a ‘ticking time bomb’ – the longer you ignore it, the more dangerous and difficult to resolve they can become. So, encourage your team to speak up as soon as they realise there is a problem and get to work on the solution.

2. Acknowledge the problem 

This may sound simple but can actually be a difficult early step, mainly because it means ensuring everyone involved is willing to admit that there is a real problem – and that they are prepared to work on its resolution.

3. Start the conversation

First of all, make sure to find a suitably safe, neutral space where all parties can come together to discuss the conflict. Then, encourage ‘active listening’ – this basically means making sure everyone is willing to hear what another person has to say, even if they disagree with it.

When discussing a point of conflict, it can be easy to slip into an attack on particular individuals and assign the blame for the disagreement on them. This does not resolve the conflict so stay focussed on the problem, not any individual person.

Once everyone has had a chance to talk, take some time to try to see things from the other person’s perspective – in other words not just what they think and feel but why they feel that way.

At this point, it’s important to recognise that sometimes conflicts are associated with deeper issues such as power imbalances, communication breakdowns or cultural differences. Where this is the case, it can be helpful to involve a neutral third party such as a mediator to oversee the resolution process.

4. Brainstorm solutions

Once everyone has a better understanding of each other person’s perspective, the next step is to collaborate on potential solutions that will get to grips with the underlying issue. You should be aware that, in many cases, you won’t be able to find something that entirely pleases everyone. Conflict resolution will usually involve negotiating a compromise so aim for a solution that at least partially meets the needs of everyone involved so that an agreement can be reached and followed through.

5. Put it into practice

Once everyone has come to an agreement, make a plan for how that can be implemented and make sure everyone understands the part they have to play in ensuring the solution is effective. Check in regularly with the team to make sure everyone stays on board.

6. Share the results

If you think you’ve come up with an innovative solution to a situation involving conflict, share your success story with others in your company. This could help save a lot of anguish and time in other teams when conflict arises.

Be constructive about conflict

When it comes to conflict within teams, the main thing to remember is that it doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. Handled well, it can help individual team members to learn from each other, build stronger relationships in the long-run and result in some innovative ideas that  constant ‘agreement’ would never come up with. Follow the tips above to turn that negative into a positive.

Let us know if you’ve got other ideas for how to resolve conflict situations at work. Comment on our Facebook or LinkedIn pages.


Feature image: Freepik