Learn about conflict management, why it matters, and a few conflict resolution skills to use to settle disputes. We’ve got a few examples for you, too.
You've likely experienced conflict professionally with a manager or a client. If so, you know settling the dispute successfully is vital to ensure you don’t lose clients. Whether arising from differing opinions, clashing personalities, or misunderstandings, these disagreements hinder productivity and dampen team morale. Enter conflict resolution skills.
In this guide, we'll discuss what conflict resolution is, learn a few conflict management skills, and share a few strategies you can use to settle any situation you might find yourself in.
What is conflict resolution, and why is it important? 🤔
Conflict resolution refers to the methods and processes that facilitate the peaceful ending of dispute or disagreement and retribution between people. It's about understanding and addressing the root causes of issues, ensuring disagreements are dealt with constructively.
If workplace conflict isn’t addressed, it can lead to:
- Decreased productivity: Persistent conflicts can distract employees from tasks, leading to inefficiency and missed deadlines.
- Lowered morale: Unaddressed issues can lead to resentment, unhappiness, and demotivation among team members.
- Increased absenteeism and turnover: Employees who find the workplace stressful due to unresolved conflicts may call in sick more often or even decide to leave the organization.
- Impaired team cohesion: Conflicts can cause rifts within teams, leading to a lack of trust, reduced collaboration, and a "them versus us" mentality.
- Diminished creativity and innovation: A hostile environment can stifle the free flow of ideas, as employees might fear criticism or backlash for suggesting something new.
- Poor decision-making: When conflicts go unresolved, people might act based on emotions, politics, or personal agendas rather than what's best for the organization.
- Damaged reputation: Persistent conflict can leak outside the organization, making attracting top talent or maintaining beneficial partnerships difficult.
- Potential legal repercussions: In extreme cases, unresolved conflicts –– especially those that involve discrimination, harassment, or bullying –– can lead to legal complaints and lawsuits.
What causes conflict at work? 😠
Workplace conflict doesn't always result from a clash of personalities. You may find yourself harboring negative emotions if you have:
- An unreasonable workload: Often, if the amount of work assigned to you is more than you can handle, but you depend on the money, it can cause feelings of mistreatment. Similarly, if you feel you aren't being paid enough for your work, you may experience these emotions.
- Difference in expectations: Occasionally, you'll work with managers or clients who expect a much faster turnaround than realistically possible. This can cause conflict as the expectations are irrational.
- Communication problems: As an Independent or full-time employee, you might misunderstand the instructions in an email, leading to delays or work that doesn't meet a manager or client's expectations, leading to conflict.
13 conflict resolution skills 🔥
Conflicts, while challenging, are inevitable in professional settings. But the good news is that you can learn a few soft skills to successfully deal with conflict, identify potential problems, and avoid them.
Here are 13 conflict resolution skill examples to help you in times of need (and they’re also great traits to include on your resume):
- Active listening: Genuinely listening to all parties involved is crucial so no one feels unheard. This means refraining from interrupting and trying to grasp the underlying emotions and concerns.
- Empathy: Being able to place yourself in another's shoes can help understand their viewpoint. Recognizing and validating their feelings can pave the way for more productive conversations.
- Clear communication: Being articulate and transparent about your perspective without being aggressive helps in mutual understanding. It's essential to convey thoughts clearly and avoid any ambiguity.
- Problem-solving: Once you identify the conflict’s root cause, it's about finding a middle ground or a solution that addresses the concerns of all parties involved.
- Negotiation skills: A give-and-take approach often leads to faster resolutions. Being open to compromises ensures more balanced and acceptable solutions.
- Patience: Conflicts aren't always resolved quickly. Having the patience to let others speak and waiting for the right moment to address concerns is key.
- Impartiality: Remaining neutral and avoiding taking sides is essential, especially if mediating between two parties, ensuring fair judgments.
- Open-mindedness: Being receptive to alternative solutions or viewpoints often leads to more innovative and agreeable resolutions.
- Stress management: Conflicts can be emotionally taxing. Being able to manage your stress levels ensures clear thinking and prevents escalation.
- Emotional intelligence: Recognizing and regulating your emotions, as well as understanding others', is pivotal in conflict situations. It helps address the issue rather than getting tangled in emotional reactions.
- Facilitation skills: In some conflicts, guiding the conversation in a structured manner, ensuring each party gets an equal say, is instrumental in reaching a resolution.
- Trust: Conflicts erode confidence and assurance among colleagues. Actively mentoring people to rebuild or maintain trust ensures longer-lasting professional relationships.
- Follow-up: After you find a resolution, checking in to ensure all involved parties are implementing solutions and addressing any residual concerns is key.
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Conflict resolution strategies ✅
Now that you better understand what conflict resolution skills you need to deal with issues, let’s explore strategies you can use together with those skills. Here are a few conflict resolution techniques, depending on your situation, to teach you how to resolve conflict:
- Mediation: If conflicts escalate, bring in a neutral third party to mediate. This person can help guide the conversation, ensure everyone is heard, and offer unbiased perspectives to help reach a compromise.
- Open dialog: Create a safe environment for discussion, encourage all involved parties to voice their concerns without interruptions, and facilitate the conversation to ensure it remains productive and doesn't veer into personal attacks.
- Arbitration: This is similar to mediation, except after hearing both sides, the neutral third party makes a decision. Think of the arbitrator as a judge; their sentencing is final.
- Litigation: When the result seems far-fetched, and either party would like to settle the affair more formally, both sides present their case to an actual judge who makes the final decision.
Conflict resolution examples 📑
To learn more about how to implement these skills and strategies in real life, here are some examples to seek inspiration:
Conflict with a client about increasing the scope of work
You sign a contract with a client to design their website. However, as the project continues, the client insists on adding more features that weren't part of the original scope. You should set up a meeting with the client to openly discuss the situation, asking for additional payment for new features.
Conflict with a client about payment of resources
You work for a company that creates websites. The client isn't happy with the free images and requests paid pictures. They are under the impression your company will pay for the costs and has already paid for the entire project to be completed. You and your manager sit with the client, with your manager acting as the mediator. Your manager listens to both parties and suggests a neutral solution.
Find work without conflict with Contra 😃
For any business arrangement to work, whether in permanent employment or as an Independent, all parties’ expectations should align. But discrepancies and misunderstandings are bound to happen from time to time, potentially leading to conflicts. And to manage conflict and harmonious collaboration, you need the right skills and strategies.
If you're confident in your conflict resolution skills and ready to find work, join Contra for Independents. Our platform matches you with clients needing your skills commission-free. Similarly, if you're looking for the best Independents to hire for your projects, sign up for Contra for clients. After creating your profile and listing your job, we’ll match you with the best Independents suited for the job.