Using an Effective Communication Approach
Bob Gottfried Ph.D.
Conflict in the workplace manifests itself as a disagreement of some type between individuals or groups. Different communication styles, competing goals, competition for promotions, power struggles, or misunderstandings are just a few causes of conflicts. Such conflicts can take many forms, including disputes over workload or working hours, conflicts between coworkers, or disputes between managers and employees. The negative impact of conflict in the workplace cannot be underestimated, as it can lead to decreased organizational effectiveness, increased stress, and decreased productivity.
However, when handled properly, conflicts can also lead to positive outcomes. For instance, it can improve problem-solving, encourage innovation, and even build stronger bonds between teams or coworkers and between management and employees. As such, it is in everyone’s best interest to identify conflicts early and resolve them as soon as possible. Doing so will not only help to mitigate the negative consequences of conflict but also create an environment where constructive disagreements can flourish, leading to a more productive and harmonious workplace.
The process of resolving such conflicts requires the following steps:
- Identifying who is part of the conflict
The first step in resolving any conflict is to identify who is involved. This may seem obvious, but it’s essential to ensure that all relevant parties are included in the process. Depending on the nature of the conflict, this may include individuals within the same team, individuals from different teams, or even individuals from outside the organization.
- Calling all sides for a meeting
Once you’ve identified who is involved, the next step is to bring everyone together for a first meeting. It’s important to schedule a meeting at a time that works for everyone involved and to make sure that all parties are aware of the purpose of the meeting. This meeting should be a safe and neutral space for everyone to voice their concerns and work towards a resolution.
- Promise a non-judgmental approach
It’s important to create a safe and non-judgmental environment in the meeting. Make sure that everyone involved understands that the goal is to find a resolution that works for everyone and that no one will be blamed or judged for their role in the conflict.
- Ask every participant to describe the conflict in their own words
Once everyone is present, start by asking each participant to describe the conflict in their own words. This is important because it helps everyone understand how the conflict is perceived by each person involved. This can also help identify any misunderstandings or miscommunications that may have led to the conflict.
- Listen plenty and show empathy
As each person speaks, it’s essential to listen actively and show empathy towards their perspective. This means acknowledging their feelings and showing that you understand where they’re coming from.
- Ask every participant to offer their solution for the problem at hand
After each person has had a chance to describe the conflict, ask each participant to offer their solution for the problem. Encourage everyone to be open-minded and to listen to each other’s suggestions.
- Summarize the best solution and ask for a commitment from all parties
Once everyone has had a chance to offer their solution, summarize the best solution, one that everyone or most people involved agree to, and ask for a commitment from all parties. This means that everyone agrees to work towards implementing the proposed solution and to hold themselves accountable for their part in the resolution.
- Don’t rush the process
Conflict resolution can be a lengthy process, and it’s important not to rush it. Allow enough time for everyone to voice their concerns and work towards a resolution. If needed schedule a second meeting to further discuss matters and reach a mutually agreed solution.
- Thank everyone for being open-minded and constructive
Finally, it’s important to thank everyone for their participation and for being open-minded and constructive. Acknowledging everyone’s efforts and progress can help build a positive and productive workplace culture. It takes courage to voice concerns and work towards a resolution, and acknowledging this can help build trust and foster positive relationships between coworkers.
- Follow-up and Evaluation
Follow-up is a crucial component of conflict resolution at work. After the initial meeting, it’s essential to schedule a follow-up meeting to check on the progress of the proposed solution and ensure that everyone is still committed to working towards a resolution.
During the follow-up meeting, ask each participant to share their progress towards the proposed solution and whether they have encountered any obstacles along the way. Encourage open and honest communication and provide support or resources to help participants overcome any challenges they may be facing.
It’s also important to evaluate the effectiveness of the proposed solution and make adjustments necessary. If the proposed solution is not working as intended, it may be necessary to revisit the conflict and work toward a new solution.
If you aspire to become a master of effective communication, there are many benefits to be gained, including the ability to resolve conflicts, influence others, enhance existing relationships (both personal and professional), build new ones, deal with challenging people, negotiate effectively, deal with challenging people and stay calm and collected. To develop these skills, we invite you to explore our range of effective communication training programs.
Bob Gottfried Ph.D. is the director of ACT-Communication with over 30 years of experience, specializing in neuro-cognition, consumer behaviour, content/message analysis and effective communication strategies.