Conflicts that are allowed to fester and grow will ultimately diminish productivity and damage employee morale. This is why employers seek employees with conflict resolution skills to manage and diffuse conflict. Properly handling conflicts will avoid collapsing productivity at work.

Below is the American Management Association’s tips in resolving conflict.

5 Steps in resolving conflict:

1. Identify the source of the conflict.
The more information you have about the situation, the easier it will be to resolve it. To get the information you need from both sides, use a series of questions to identify the cause, like, “When did you feel upset?” “Do you see a relationship between that and this incident?” “How did this incident begin?”

2. Look beyond the incident.
Sometimes, the cause of the conflict may be seemingly small and could have happened a while ago, but the negative emotions festered which may have aggravated the situation.

3. Request solutions
After getting the information you need from both sides, it is now time to solve the problem! Listen actively and steer the discussion towards solutions. Ask both sides “what would make things better for you?” and “How can you make things better for the two of you?”

4. Identify solutions both disputants can support.
Some solutions may not be amenable to both parties. Strive to come up with a solution that will be amenable to both disputants.

5. Agreement.
The last step is getting both parties to agree on the proposed solution. Have them answer these questions: “what action plans will you both put in place to prevent conflicts from arising in the future?” and “What will you do if problems arise in the future?”

Now that we know the steps to resolving conflict, let’s identify ways to avoid conflict in the first place.

1. Define acceptable behavior states that Having clearly defined job descriptions so that people know what’s expected of them, and a well articulated chain of command to allow for effective communication will help avoid conflicts. Clearly and publicly make it known what will and won’t be tolerated.

2. Hit conflict head on
Being able to address potential conflict head on and proactively intervening can minimize the impacts of conflict if and when it does arise.

3. Understand the WIIFM
In order to avoid conflict, understand the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) or the motivations of people you work with. By knowing other people’s objectives and motivations, and by helping them achieve their objectives, you will more likely lessen conflict from arising.

4. Pick your battles
Pick your battles and avoid getting into conflict in the first place. If the issue is not important and does not affect a lot of people, then it’s best to leave it alone.

5. View conflict as opportunity
Each conflict, is a learning opportunity. It is an opportunity to learn more about yourself, and to improve yourself. Use each conflict situation as an opportunity for growth and development.

Learning how to resolve conflict effectively will make you not only a better leader, but a better individual as well.

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