Office conflict is extremely common. The underlying causes of interpersonal conflict at the workplace are often due to a combination of factors ranging from personality clashes to a difference in values and ideology. Conflict can also arise even when workers agree on a common goal but disagree on the process. Essentially, conflict can arise out of practically anything.
Our focus is not to identify the main causes of conflict but rather to look at the various ways that conflicts are commonly resolved at the workplace.
1. Adopt a cooling period
Are you in the midst of an argument with your colleague? It may be useful for both sides to agree to a 30 minute break and resume the discussion later. Many disagreements persist because each side let their sentiments prevail and fail to take time to study the problem rationally.
2. Appoint an independent referee
If both sides are unable to come to an agreement, you may want to consider asking a colleague from another department to offer an independent opinion of the situation. Naturally, you may only use this solution if both parties are able to trust the third party referee.
3. Write down each side’s position
At times, conflicts persist because each side is not clear about what the other person is referring to. This is especially true if either one party has a poor command of English or if he is unable to make reference to technical terms effectively. Writing down each side’s opinion may help the other party to understand the source of the disagreement.
4. Personality tests
Conflict is sometimes due to a personality clash. Take the time to go through a personality test and understand the strengths and weaknesses of your personality.
5. Find common ground
When you are in a disagreement with another party, focus on finding what both sides agree on. Focusing on the common ground creates a positive environment for resolving any lingering differences.
Sometimes, disagreements persist because each party looks at the problem as being a zero-sum proposition. This may not always be the case. Try to brainstorm possible solutions that will result in a win-win situation.
6. Professional Training
Senior and mid-level executives should be trained in conflict management and resolution. There are many courses in the market designed to help leaders deal with their emotions and manage conflicts between their subordinates.
To learn how to react appropriately in a conflict, it is important to learn how to deal with it even before a conflict appears. Visualization and thought experiments can be helpful.
Another way to learn is to take an academic approach by reading case studies. The Harvard Business Review often proposes many case studies that cover conflicts commonly faced by working executives. The case study is often followed by the different viewpoints from the various stakeholders.