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Building Bridges, Not Walls: The Power of Effective Conflict Resolution

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Image: Building Bridges, Not Walls: The Power of Effective Conflict Resolution

Conflicts are unavoidable. It should be almost apparent that an organization built on groups of people will welcome differences in opinions, philosophies, and even methods of operating in an organization. 

Arguably, the dynamics of thought processes can be beneficial, in the sense that varying opinions allow discourse on different areas, thereby contributing to innovation. 

However, at the end of the day, these conflicts must be resolved. The attempts to resolve this demand time and effort.

A 2008 study by CPP Global reports that U.S. employees spend 2.8 hours per week managing conflict. This leads to over $359 Billion in paid hours that are wasted across the nation’s workforce every year.

Understanding and implementing different methods of conflict resolution is vital, given that there is much at stake. 

Approaches toward resolving conflicts have the ability to significantly impact organizations and employee morale. An effective management system can diffuse tensions and realign teams. 

Conflicts can definitely present opportunities. Where there is a difference in opinion there is the possibility of favorable discourse, for instance, creative problem-solving. 

Furthermore, varied opinions in an organization reduce risks by 30% while increasing innovation by 20%.

Developing conflict resolution capabilities may be one of the most impactful investments businesses can make in their long-term efficacy and success.

Competing

Like the name suggests, this method involves overpowering others through formal authority. This involves bullying tactics, manipulation, gaslighting, or simply force of personality and will. It is aggressive, assertive, and very ill-advised. 

The competing approach is very self-interested and power-oriented. It relies on dominance and can leave others feeling victimized, subdued, and resentful in its wake.

Competing may be an effective conflict resolution style when there is an emergency or unpopular decisions need to be made quickly. 

However, it should be avoided in most routine situations since it can severely damage relationships and trust. It tends to result in win-lose situations where only one side gets what they want.

Avoiding

With the avoidance style, an individual simply sidesteps the conflict entirely. 

They dodge confrontations, change the subject, or physically remove themselves from the situation. This passive approach can temporarily help reduce tensions, but it fails to solve the underlying disagreement.

Some avoidance can be useful when emotions are running exceptionally high and a break is needed. 

However, excessive avoidance leads to lingering resentment, bitterness, and unresolved problems that could have been settled through open communication. It is a very insecure, short-term approach.  

Accommodating

The accommodator neglects their own concerns, wants, and perspectives to satisfy and appease others. 

This cooperative, self-sacrificing conflict resolution style helps preserve relationships and can be effective for resolving relatively unimportant matters or when outmatched. 

However, constant accommodation breeds resentment over time. 

Others may take advantage, feel a lack of respect, or fail to take the accommodating person seriously since they never assert their own needs. 

Overuse of this pacifying approach leads to self-neglect and unaddressed grievances.

Compromising

This is an intermediate conflict resolution style that involves finding an acceptable middle-ground solution through negotiation, bargaining, and bilateral concessions. 

Both sides give something up, so neither walks away fully satisfied. However, it is faster than collaboration and allows everyone to claim a partial victory.

Compromise can provide temporary, situational solutions, but it struggles to get to the heart of complex conflicts or produce long-term wins. 

Some level of compromise is necessary in virtually every conflict, but if taken too far, it becomes a copout that leaves core concerns unaddressed.

Collaborating

The collaboration style takes the most effort, as it aims to fully integrate the needs, concerns, and perspectives of all parties into a consensual agreement. 

It requires diligent issue identification, active listening, examining different paths, and creatively exploring an overarching solution that benefits everyone.

Collaboration is clearly the most desirable approach for complex conflicts and enduring solutions. However, it takes patience, trust, and genuine cooperation from all involved. 

Time and effort invested upfront in seeking a win-win pays dividends through strengthened relationships and comprehensive resolution.

Quotes on Workplace Conflict

“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Mahatma Gandhi

“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

Winston Churchill  

“You can’t shake hands with a clenched fist.”

Indira Gandhi

Conflict Resolution Statistics

  • Globally, the average time employees spend weekly on resolving disagreements in the workplace is 2.1 hours. In the US, it rises to 2.8 hours per week.
  • It is estimated that 85% of US employees face some level of conflict at work. The average manager spends about 6 hours per week (roughly 15% of their time) resolving work conflicts.
  • Stress, anxiety, and/or depression were reported by 56% of employees who experienced conflict at work. In addition, 40% reported being less motivated.
  • In resolving workplace conflicts, 58.8% of professionals prefer collaborating styles. Meanwhile, 24.4% of respondents prefer compromising styles. Competing, avoiding, and accommodating conflict styles are less popular with managers.

Tips for effective conflict resolution in the workplace

Manage Emotions: Conflicts can quickly escalate and become unproductive when emotions run high. If tensions rise, take a break and revisit the issue when calmer. Use stress management techniques like deep breathing. Respond rather than react from an emotional place.

Listen Actively: Let others speak without interrupting them. Summarize their concerns back to ensure you understand their perspective fully. Ask clarifying questions to fill any gaps. Listen with the intent to comprehend, not just reply.

Identify Interests: Look beyond stated positions to uncover the underlying interests, needs, desires, and motivations on both sides. This allows you to find common ground and creative solutions.  

Separate People from the Problem: Address the issue itself in an objective manner, not the personalities involved. Avoid personal attacks or taking things overly personally yourself. Depersonalize the conflict.

Focus on the Future: Rather than assigning blame for past actions, concentrate on developing a resolution to prevent future conflicts and improve working relationships moving forward.

Consider Context and Standards: Analyze the situation objectively. Were actions intentional or inadvertent mistakes? What were the triggers? Also, consider any policies, laws, or precedents that should guide resolution.

Get Support: If you cannot resolve the issue yourselves, involve an impartial third party such as a manager, HR representative or professional mediator to evaluate the conflict and facilitate resolution.

Follow Through: Any agreements or plans decided upon need to be clearly documented and carried out by all parties. Set dates for checking progress and circle back if issues resurface.

Conclusion

Since it has been concluded that conflicts are unavoidable, understanding and implementing stable conflict resolution methods is key to a well-functioning workplace. 

Diversity in personalities and perspectives although may clash,  must be embraced. When dealt with in a systematic manner, these differences result in an innovative yet harmonious workplace.

Nevertheless, It is absolutely essential for an organisation to master conflict resolution. Differences can only be transformed into opportunities for growth if they are managed.

Unmanaged conflicts can very easily result in organizational chaos and workplace dysfunction. To avoid this a company must place importance on learning the right approaches toward disagreements.

Ultimately an organization is made of people with common end goals. Uniting people and building teams based on their common pursuit may require effort, yet can be simple. 

As a business leader, it is important to not despise or ignore conflicts and disagreements. Embrace this catalyst of change and innovation. Leave a lasting legacy.


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