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The Five Steps to Conflict Resolution for Managers

The Five Steps to Conflict Resolution for Managers

This mediation process works between groups as well as individuals.

“We don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people.”

-Steve Goodier

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Conflict Resolution Defined

Conflict Resolution Defined

The definition of conflict resolution is to resolve an issue or problem between two or more people, but is there a correct way to handle conflict? What are the effects of poor conflict management? Disagreements in the workplace are inevitable, as employees have different personalities, goals, and opinions.

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Step 1: Define the source of the conflict.

Step 1: Define the source of the conflict.

The more information you have about the cause of the problem, the more easily you can help to resolve it. As a manager or supervisor, you need to give both parties the chance to share their side of the story. It will give you a better understanding of the situation, as well as demonstrate your impartiality. As you listen to each disputant, say, “I see” or “uh huh” to acknowledge the information and encourage them to continue to open-up to you. 

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Step 2: Look beyond the incident.

Step 2: Look beyond the incident.

Often, it is not the situation but the point of view of the situation that causes anger to fester and ultimately leads to a shouting match or other visible and disruptive result. The source of the conflict might be a minor issue that occurred months before, but the level of stress has grown to the point where the two parties have begun attacking each other personally instead of addressing the real problem. In the calm of your office, you can get them to look beyond the triggering incident to see the real cause.

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Step 3: Request solutions.

Step 3: Request solutions.

After getting each party’s viewpoint, the next step is to get them to identify how the situation could be changed. Again, question the parties to solicit their ideas: “How can you make things better between you?” As mediator, you have to be an active listener, aware of every verbal nuance, as well as a good reader of body language. You want to get the disputants to stop fighting and start cooperating, and that means steering the discussion away from finger pointing and toward ways of resolving the conflict.

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Step 4: Identify solutions both disputants can support.

Step 4: Identify solutions both disputants can support.

You are listening for the most acceptable course of action. Point out the merits of various ideas, not only from each other’s perspective, but in terms of the benefits to the organization. For instance, you might suggest the need for greater cooperation and collaboration to effectively address team issues and departmental problems.

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Step 5: Agreement.

Step 5: Agreement.

The mediator needs to get the two parties to shake hands and accept one of the alternatives identified in Step 4. The goal is to reach a negotiated agreement. Some mediators go as far as to write up a contract in which actions and time frames are specified. However, it might be sufficient to meet with the individuals and 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?

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Constructive Management Approach

Constructive Management Approach

“Conflict can and should be handled constructively; when it is, relationships benefit. Conflict avoidance is *not* the hallmark of a good relationship. On the contrary, it is a symptom of serious problems and of poor communication.”

-Harriet B. Braiker

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