Dealing with conflict in the workplace is one of the unfortunate realities of corporate life. However, conflict can actually be quite healthy. When it is approached in the right way, conflict allows differing opinions to be shared and can actually lead to creative problem solving. To achieve positive results, however, it is necessary to develop strong conflict resolution skills.

Essential Conflict Resolution Skills for Leaders

Watching members of your team experience conflict with one another can be stressful. As a leader, you must develop some important conflict resolution skills that can ensure these situations lead to healthy interactions and greater understanding. Effective leaders do not fix problems for their employees. Instead, they facilitate communication that leads to a positive resolution. Keep these skills in mind:

  • Don’t Be Quick to Referee – Some leaders may be tempted to step in as soon as they see conflict brewing. Instead, take a step back. Keep an eye on the situation, but whenever possible, allow your employees to at least attempt to work it out themselves.
  • Model the Behavior You Want to See – Your team members are always watching you, and they instinctively model your behavior. When you find yourself in conflict with your own peers or leaders, model the type of behavior you want to see from your employees when they experience conflict.
  • Do Not Take Sides – Always remember that conflict is not about who is right or who is wrong; there are no winners and losers. A resolution isn’t about who comes out on top, therefore leaders should never take sides when mediating.
  • Create Opportunities for Communication – When employees are experiencing conflict, create opportunities for them to communicate with one another. More often than not, conflict is a result of communication issues. This doesn’t necessarily mean sitting them down in a room and forcing them to work it out. Think creatively. Try putting conflicting team members on a project together. This may force them to work out their differences to achieve a common goal.

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Conflict Resolution Skills for Employees

As an employee, it can be tempting to run for your boss when you find yourself in conflict with another team member. Dealing with someone who constantly disagrees with you is stressful, and it can be easy to take conflict personally. However, it is important to try and work out your differences on your own. You don’t want to be known as the office tattletale, and healthy conflict resolution skills can help you become better at your job, and will facilitate better communication in the future.

Keep these things in mind the next time you find yourself in opposition to a teammate:

  • Know that You Don’t Always Have to AgreeResolving conflict is about coming to an understanding with another person. It does not mean you have to agree with them, nor does it mean they have to agree with you. Once you can get past the idea that someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong, conflict often has a way of resolving itself.
  • Listen to What the Other Person is Saying – You probably expect others to listen to you, so you must be prepared to give others that same courtesy when you find yourself in conflict. You do not have to like the other person’s position – frankly, you don’t even have to like the other person. What you must do, however, is understand where that person is coming from.
  • Ask QuestionsListening is the first step in understanding someone else’s position, but in order to truly understand, you have to ask questions to find the root of the conflict. In many cases, conflict occurs because of a miscommunication. Be direct and show the other person that you are serious about resolving the issue. If you can figure out what caused the conflict, you’ve taken the first step towards resolving the problem.

Universal Conflict Resolution Skills

Whether you are a leader or a contributing team member, there are some essential conflict resolution skills that can help you navigate through interactions with others. Keep these three things in mind, no matter which rung of the corporate ladder you occupy:

  • There is No Room for Emotion – In order to resolve conflict, all parties involved must leave emotion out of the process. Approach conflict resolution with your head, not your heart in order to have the best chance at a set of constructive outcomes.
  • Don’t Run From Conflict – Workplace conflict can be extremely stressful, and it can be tempting to bury your head in the proverbial sand when conflicts arise. Whether you are involved in a conflict with another employee, or you are a manager experiencing conflict among your team members, don’t run from it. Face conflict head on, so that you can get to the root of the situation and begin the resolution process.
  • Conflict Can Be Healthy – A workplace without conflict may seem ideal, but the truth is conflict can be healthy. Differing opinions and approaches are often the sparks that ignite creativity. Conflict can actually help team members learn more about one another, and can help foster healthier communication in the long run.

Workplace conflict, no matter how unpleasant it may feel, cannot be avoided. In any group there will be differing opinions and work styles. The key to navigating conflict is to learn the essential skills that will help you turn disagreement and personality clashes into healthy interactions that can facilitate understanding, creativity, and innovation.