6 Steps to resolve conflict at work

Jun 12, 2023

Conflict at work is a common problem. Healthy conflict is good because it gives permission to express different opinions, to be heard, have different perspectives, and to come to an agreement.
It is unhealthy where it is suppressed or comes out as criticism or anger. This then stores up resentment and prevents the business from having the benefit of divergent and new ideas.

A Story that Plays out in Many Businesses
Two people in your senior team just are not getting on. They rub each other up the wrong way and spend more effort fighting or ignoring each other than on moving the business forward. 
We either put up with this or find a solution. They will have to move or leave. But we are reluctant to do this as their skills are very valuable to us and the organisation. Even more tricky – maybe one of the people is yourself, and you need a way back from the edge you have both taken yourselves to. But how?

My experience is that Relationships create Culture, and Culture creates Success. 

Here are 6 steps to deal with conflict at work:
1. Have the right culture
Create a culture where it is OK to have different views and the freedom to express them.
Conflict has to be dealt with rapidly. If there is conflict between two people, it is their responsibility to resolve it amicably. If you step in as the rescuer you will be setting up an unhealthy pattern for the future.
2. Be clear about your purpose
If you share a clear passion and purpose that the business will fulfil, this will help you all weather the storms ahead.
If your purpose is not understood or shared there is likely to be dissonance amongst the staff. If they are not on your bus or helping you drive it, then should they be there at all?
3. Have honest and open conversations
Differences of opinion are inevitable and a good thing if they create healthy conflict that is dealt with. If matters are swept under the carpet, they will fester and become toxic.
4. Regularly calibrate the state of your working relationships
Calibrate each of the 6 elements of The Relationship Paradigm
Communication, Connection, Commitment, Fun, Growth, Trust
5. There is no ‘right’
Conflict comes where there is an unmet need in both of you. What do you think their need is and is this different or in direct conflict with your needs? Is there a way of you both getting what you want in this situation without conflict?
In a relationship, even in business, there is no reality, there is only perception. These can be very different and equally correct.
6. What do you want to have happen?
It is easy to get stuck in the ‘problem’ mode of ‘they are treating me badly’ or the remedy mode of ‘if only they would leave then life would go back to normal’. Ask them the very specific question of “What would you like to have happen?” and keep asking this until you have absolute clarity.