Conflict Resolution in the Workplace: Keeping the Peace in Stressful Situations

5 min read

Here’s how you can maintain team cohesion – even when everyone is at each other’s throats.

Conflict is a part of the human condition; thus, some level of workplace conflict is unavoidable. While you may think your organization is immune, your staff can likely point to either major or minor instances of workplace conflict that have affected their day-to-day work. While some degree of workplace conflict is to be expected, conflict that goes unaddressed and ignored can cause larger problems down the road.

So how can you mitigate these conflicts when they arise? How can you prevent small conflicts from growing into serious problems? Here are some of the ways your firm can proactively address conflict in a strategic way that defuses issues before they have the chance to derail your organization.

Take a Step Back to See the Whole Picture

When dealing with a conflict, it’s critical that you ensure you have a full and accurate picture of what the conflict is and how it’s affecting your team. All too often, your team’s strong emotions can obscure critical details of the conflict – details involving individual perceptions and unmet needs that can inform your conflict resolution process.

Before taking any kind of action, take some time to gather background information about the conflict from the parties involved to ensure you get all sides of the story.

Let All Parties Speak; Find Common Ground

When mediating a conflict, make sure you give all parties a chance to say their piece. Ensure all parties know that you’re an impartial mediator – you aren’t there to shame anyone or take sides; you’re there to help them come to a resolution that works for everyone. Make sure this conversation happens in a private office, out of view of your other employees. The last thing a conflict needs is more people weighing in with their individual opinions.

In this private meeting, encourage your employees to use “I” phrases (“I think”, “I feel”, etc.) and to express how they feel about the situation. When addressing a conflict, using the word “you” can sound accusatory, which only serves to intensify emotions and ramp up the conflict further. Instead, using “I” language is more subjective and sounds less like an attack.

During the meeting, try to find things your employees can agree on. Give all employees a chance to be heard.

If you don’t want to (or don’t have the skills) to mediate the conflict yourself, bring in an impartial mediator. If your company has a human resources department, your HR rep likely has conflict resolution training and resources that can help create a safe environment where everyone feels listened to.

Devise a Solution All Parties Agree On

Once everyone has had their chance to be heard and you’ve found some sort of common ground between the parties, it’s time to come up with a plan.

Conflict resolution can end in one of three ways:

  • Lose-Lose: Neither party gets what they want and all parties walk away from the mediation feeling unsatisfied.
  • Win-Lose: Only one party gets what they want; while the other party or parties walk away unsatisfied.
  • Win-Win: All parties walk away feeling satisfied with the outcome of the conflict resolution.

When resolving conflicts, you’ll want to come up with as many ideas as possible for satisfying all parties and ending with a win-win outcome. Look for areas where all employees are able to compromise and meet each other halfway. Sell your best idea to all parties. Make sure all parties understand what they gain from the arrangement, as well as what their responsibilities are. 

If neither party can agree on a solution, remind them that Lose-Lose is a viable option and ask them to try again. People are inherently self-interested; your employees will eventually come to a resolution on their own that they can both live with. 

Once you’ve come up with a plan that all parties agree on, you’ll want to monitor the situation to ensure all parties are meeting their responsibilities and to ensure the issue doesn’t come up again. Casually follow up with each of the parties separately to ensure things are working out. If one of the parties isn’t holding up their end of the bargain, remind them of what was agreed on and ask them if they really want to go through the conflict resolution process again.

In an ideal world, have the parties define the solution(s) together. The more they define the outcome, the more ownership they will take in following through.

Use Technology to Prevent Communication Breakdowns

Often, conflict in the workplace arises as a result of poor communication. If your office is still using pen-and-paper methods for managing your entities and/or documents, for instance, your team is relying on an asynchronous method of communication that can easily lead to people being out of the loop on important issues.

That’s where adopting cloud-based technology helps. With cloud-based software that uses a Single Source of Truth methodology, your entire team can have seamless access to information that is always up-to-date. Plus, the best legal entity management software on the market will enable your entire team to see a complete list of changes, so you’ll always know who did what and when.

Of course, technology is only as good as the people using it; that’s why you’ll want to ensure your team is on board with the new technologies you adopt. When bringing in new communication technology to streamline your firm, you’ll want to walk through a series of steps to ensure your firm and your people are ready to adopt it. 

Conflict in the workplace can cause stress, erode team cohesion, impact productivity, and contribute to a toxic environment. That’s why you’ll want to nip conflict in the bud before it has a chance to take root and compromise your team’s morale. With an empathetic approach to conflict mediation and a defined conflict resolution process, you can resolve disagreements to your employees’ satisfaction and keep your organization firing on all cylinders.

Is poor legal entity management and a lack of digital communication causing conflict in your firm? We can help. Contact Appara today to start your FREE trial and discover how digital entity & transaction management can keep your team in sync.

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