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Conflict Resolution Tips

How to be a Leader in Resolving Conflict?

Use conflict resolution tips to deal with customer and employee conflict. What is the definition of conflict? Is conflict theory useful? How to be a leader in your business and manage conflict?

Conflict can be good for your business; from the perspective that it can encourage adapting, evolving and growing the organization (rather than just accepting the status quo).

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Conflict can help businesses to change and adapt.

Conflict theory states that conflict arises when an individual's role in the organization (or society) is threatened. (Wars also arise from this premise.)

Small business is not war (even though it might seem that way sometimes) so it is important to manage conflict effectively so that it does not create an unhealthy, stressful climate.

How to be a Leader in Resolving Conflict:

If the conflict is understood, it can be effectively managed by reaching a consensus that meets both the individual's and organization's needs.

This results in mutual benefits and strengthens the relationship. The goal in resolving issues is for all to "win" by having at least some of their needs met.

Examples of How Workplace Conflict Arises:

A). Employee Conflict Perspective:

  • The employee blames a co-worker for making the mistake.
  • The employee feels that there is not enough time to do the job correctly.
  • The employee believes his or her wages are too low in comparison to others in the organization or in comparison to the marketplace.

B). Angry Customer's Perspective:

  • The customer blames the employee for making a mistake on writing up the order.
  • The customer blames the business for making an inferior product that failed on use.
  • The customer feels that the service is extremely poor for the price he or she paid.

From a customer perspective, if you don't take charge of the conflict you will very likely lose the customer. From an employee perspective, if you don't take charge of the conflict the employee will leave the company or, even worse, will stay as an unhappy, non-productive and disgruntled worker.

Managing Conflict (Not Eliminating it) is the
Goal for all Conflict Resolution Tips:

  1. You must identify the conflict and analyze why it occurred. Ask the individuals involved to identify why there is a conflict. Listen to what they have to say. Do not rush to judge what you hear. Use active listening skills to listen for meaning, rather than listen for what you want to hear. If you find that there is more than one cause or reason for the conflict, segment the causes and deal with only one at a time.

  2. You must determine how you will handle the conflict. Consider strategies such as negotiation, compromise, and accommodation when you determine the most effective strategy.

  3. You will need to involve both (or all) individuals in the conflict. Consider this a negotiation for resolution, and use these conflict resolution tips to handle this successfully. If this is a complex, and/or emotionally-charged, issue, you may want to consider the advantages of outsourcing to a trained conflict resolution facilitator. Each individual involved must be willing to participate in the resolution process.

  4. If necessary, ensure that your negotiation is deep enough to get to the root cause of the conflict. Use problem solving techniques to uncover the root cause. For example, if a customer is dissatisfied with the service/price relationship, is the customer looking for a lower price at the same service level, or improved service at the same price, or significantly more value added service at a higher price? You need to go deep enough to uncover the real interests or motivations behind the issue.

  5. Sometimes the participants are too close to the issues; they cannot see a way out. That is why business owners, as effective leaders and managers, often step into the issue. But try to let the participants resolve the conflicts on their own first; your role is to encourage them to think of options to satisfy all interests and/or needs.

  6. During this process of making choices or decisions from the options in front of you, consider using decision making tips and tactics to simplify the process.

  7. Document the agreement and resolution and the timeline for implementing the resolution. Just like a small business plan, your conflict resolution plan will need to be built to monitor progress and success (or deal with new problems as they arise).

Arguably the most important of the conflict resolution tips is to not focus on people and personalities; separate people from the conflict.

If you are finding it is a challenge for the individuals to see each other's perspective, encourage them to try to take on the other individual's role. For example, if the issue is between your customer service management team and your front office management team, perhaps they can switch jobs for a day, or shadow each other to better understand each other's issues.

Conflict is part of life and it can be, and should be, healthy. As business owners, we want to hear other perspectives and opinions, and use those differing perspectives to build stronger, healthier businesses. Conflict that is unattended or ignored can become bad for business growth; and even worse for the people involved.

Use these conflict resolution tips however recognize that it is possible to never come to resolution on some conflicts (look around the world to see the truth of that statement).

Your goal in business and workplace conflict is to recognize that not all conflict can be resolved, but all conflict can be managed.

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