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Conflict Resolution Steps for Team Leaders

Disagreements in the workplace are inevitable because employees have different personalities, goals, and opinions. There are many instances where conflict can arise between coworkers, and when it does, it is important to resolve the situation before it escalates.

Develop your conflict management strategy

Use "I messages," not "you messages." Avoid "always" and "never" statements. Consider the person's personality and behavior. Identify the problem and avoid other issues. Communicate your concern in a clear, specific, neutral way. Focus on behavior, not personality.

Don't wait

Do not wait and let the problem grow. The sooner a conflict is resolved, the easier it is to manage. If a particular behavior caused the conflict, you have an example to refer to. This gives the other party the best chance to understand the behavior you want to discuss.

Find a private, neutral place

Find a safe, neutral environment to facilitate a positive outcome. Such a place will allow all parties to communicate honestly. Do not choose either party's office or a location near it, as this may give the impression that one side has more influence or power over the other.

Define the problem

Get both parties to agree on the problem and discuss any unmet needs on either side. Gather as much information as you can about their views. Keep asking questions until you are sure all parties understand the problem.

Look beyond the incident

Often it is not the situation, but the view of the situation that fuels the anger. Get them to look beyond the triggering incident to see the real cause. Use probing questions like "What do you think happened?" or "When do you think this problem first occurred between you?”

Let everyone have their say

Approach the meeting positively and establish ground rules, if necessary. Give each side equal time to express their views and perceptions on the issue. Encourage them to share their thoughts openly and honestly, to understand the causes of the conflict, and to find solutions.

Request solutions

Ask, "How can you make things better between you?" so that both parties have a chance to figure out how the situation could be changed.  Get them to stop arguing and start working together. Steer the discussion away from blame and toward possible solutions to the conflict.

Identify solutions both disputants can support

You are looking for the most acceptable course of action. Point out the merits of the various ideas, not only from the other person's point of view, but also in terms of benefits to the organization.

Find agreement

Get the two parties to accept one of the alternatives identified in the previous step. The goal is to reach a negotiated agreement. Have them answer the questions, "What will you both do to avoid conflict in the future?" and "What will you do if problems arise in the future?"

Determine each side's role in the solution

For the solution to be effective, it must be perceived as just and fair by each party. Ideally, both sides now understand each other, and the conflict can be resolved through dialogue alone. Together with both parties, create a list of steps that will lead to a resolution.

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