Conflict resolution in the workplace is necessary because we all face conflict of some kind as we go about our day. Given the diverse mix of people with different backgrounds, ideals, and perspectives, you’re likely to be offended at times. You’re bound to encounter some type of conflict, whether it’s a dispute with a coworker or a disagreement with a supervisor.
Examples of friction points in the workplace.
These are common examples of friction points between people in the workplace.
Opposing viewpoints and work styles. The people in your workplace may come from dissimilar cultural and intellectual backgrounds and have radically different personalities and viewpoints. How they interpret things may also differ, based on their values and past experiences.
Poor communication. Poor communication and unclear expectations are usually at the root of most conflicts in the workplace.
Task-based conflicts. Conflict is unavoidable on a team-based project when someone, for instance, is consistently late with information that another team member needs in order to complete his or her part of the task.
Unrealistic expectations. For example, a manager may significantly increase an employee’s workload, making him or her feel overwhelmed and stressed at being pushed too hard.
Conflict resolution in the workplace is an intervention process. It is aimed at helping both parties reach a peaceful solution to their dispute in a way that makes them feel heard and understood. It is not about deciding who is right and who is wrong, but rather on reaching a solution with which both parties can live.
Steps to conflict resolution in the workplace.
If you have conflicts in the workplace, you can try these steps for resolution. But don’t hesitate to reach out to a counselor for help at any point of this process.
Address the issue right away. Don’t try to ignore the problem or try to skirt the issue. Conflicts should be addressed right away before resentments have a chance to simmer.
Meet face to face. An in-person meeting is the best way to clear things up. Schedule a meeting in a safe, private place where you won’t be interrupted, and where you can address the issue with the other person face to face. Engage with each other directly and keep the issue between yourselves. Do not talk about it with other people.
Use neutral language. Express yourself respectfully, factually, and calmly, using “I” statements as opposed to blaming or accusing the other person. Separate him or her from the problem, and focus on behaviors and events rather than on personalities.
Clarify the cause of the conflict. Foster mutual understanding by defining the cause of the conflict and discussing what needs are not being met on both sides.
Recognize personal differences. There are two sides to every conflict. Opposing viewpoints and work styles can lead to misunderstandings. Listen carefully and reflectively to what the other person has to say and avoid interrupting. Be willing to listen to their perspective of the issue and to recognize and respect personal differences.
Identify points of agreement. Identify points of agreement as well as the points of disagreement and look for common ground.
Focus on core issues. Calmly discuss conflicting perspectives and look at the facts to make sure you are addressing the core issues as opposed to superficial ones. Ask questions to try and pinpoint what needs are not being met.
Prioritize areas of conflict. Start with the most important issue and develop a plan for addressing each one.
Brainstorm solutions. Discuss the pros and cons of all options and rule out any that you concur are unworkable. Look for common goals and a win-win solution you both can agree on.
Agree on a way forward. Develop a plan and express out loud to each other what your commitment will be going forward to accomplish it. Then follow through upon what you have agreed.
If necessary, bring in a mediator. If you are unable to work out your conflict on your own, you may need to bring in a third party mediator. An unbiased third party such as a qualified Christian counselor can help ease tension, enhance communication, encourage empathy, and guide you to a mutually agreeable solution.
Take these steps based on the Bible to bring peace into your workplace conflicts.
Pray first. Ask God to reveal to you whether your source of conflict is an issue that needs to be addressed or not. The Bible tells us that there are times when it’s best to remain silent and overlook a minor, harmless offense.
Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. – Proverbs 12:16, NIV
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. – Proverbs 19:11, NIV
Examine yourself. We all have a tendency to magnify other people’s faults while minimizing our own. Reflect on how you may be contributing to the problem. Pray for the Lord to reveal your part to you, and help you address the issue with the other person in a polite and respectful way.
Why do you see the speck that is in you brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:3-5, ESV
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! – Psalm 141:3, ESV
Choose your words wisely. Introduce the subject in a direct, courteous, non-confrontational way. Share your feelings instead of attacking or blaming the other person.
The wise in heart are called discerning, and gracious words promote instruction. – Proverbs 16:21, NIV
Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them. – Proverbs 29:20, NIV
Control your anger. Stay calm and avoid provocative, inflammatory words.
A hot-tempered person stirs up conflict, but the one who is patient calms a quarrel. – Proverbs 15:18, NIV
It is to one’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel. – Proverbs 20:3, NIV
Make every effort to restore peace. Reach out and try to understand the other person’s perspective. God does not want you to remain in conflict with others, but rather to be reconciled and at peace with one another. The ultimate goal of biblical conflict resolution is to restore the relationship rather than to prove who is right and who is wrong.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18, NIV
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. – Proverbs 15:1, NIV
Seek outside help if necessary. If you are unable to resolve the conflict between yourself and the other person, arrange to meet with him or her a second time in the presence of a mediator. If the issue can still not be resolved bring the matter up to management or human resources.
If you brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may e established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. – Matthew 18:15-17, ESV
If you have questions or need more help than what this article could provide and would like to set up an appointment, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. A compassionate Christian counselor is ready to help you see your problem with fresh perspectives.
Resources: CLIMB Professional Development and Training (December 19, 2017). 7 Steps to Conflict Resolution (Without the Dread), Portland Community College, climb.pcc.edu/blog/7-steps-to-conflict-resolution-withut-the-dread.
Danielle Braff (January 7, 2020). Everybody argues sometimes: workplace conflict resolution, Wonderlic, https://wonderlic.com/blog/employee-performance/workplace-conflict-resolution.
“Knock Down Drag Out”, Courtesy of Afif Kusuma, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Co-working”, Courtesy of John Schnobrich, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “New Employee”, Courtesyof [email protected], Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Praying Hands”, Courtesy of Deb Dowd, Unsplash.com, CC0 License