Strategies to resolving conflicts in the workplace

Have you ever experienced conflict in the workplace? Regardless of the reason the conflict occurs; it’s likely that the parties involved still need to come to work; therefore making workplace conflict essential to overcome.

Have you ever experienced conflict in the workplace? Whether your workplace is a corporate setting, a non-profit, in the home, or a government entity, it’s likely that you’ve experienced some type of conflict. According to the University of Washington, conflict to some degree is normal in the workplace.

It is important to first understand what conflict is. Merriam-Webster defines conflict the following way: To be different, opposed or contradictory, to fail to be in agreement or accord.

By looking at this definition, we can better understand why conflict, to some degree, would be considered normal in the workplace. There are many reasons that conflict occurs. Sometimes those reasons occur over and over again causing the same type of conflict and the same outcome. Other times the reasons for conflict vary, causing differing degrees of conflict.

The University of Colorado Boulder’s Human Resources Department suggests that the following are some primary causes of conflict in the workplace:

Regardless of the reason the conflict occurs, it’s likely that the parties involved still need to come to work; therefore making workplace conflict essential to overcome. Through a series of articles, you will learn about 10 strategies found in the book, Resolving Conflicts at Work, by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith. Cloke and Goldsmith provide suggestions for improving your personal ability to confront, embrace, struggle with and resolve disputes. The 10 strategies include:

  1. Understand the culture and dynamics of conflict
  2. Listen empathetically and responsively
  3. Search beneath the surface for hidden meanings
  4. Acknowledge and reframe emotions
  5. Separate what matters from what gets in the way
  6. Solve problems paradoxically and creatively
  7. Learn from difficult behaviors
  8. Lead and coach for transformation
  9. Explore resistance and negotiate collaboratively
  10. Mediate and design systems for prevention

At Michigan State University Extension, a Conflict Resource Team strives to build the capacity of all staff to constructively prevent and handle conflict situations that occur on their teams, with their volunteers and audiences, and in their communities. The book, Resolving Conflicts at Work by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith, is a resource that the conflict resource team encourages.