Conflict resolution is a critically important topic to contend with, regardless of your leadership position in the organizational structure. Confronting conflict with a purpose in order to resolve the issue to the satisfaction of all is difficult, but certainly not impossible.
In this article, I’ve broken conflict resolution down to six easy-to-follow stages. Understanding these six stages can, in due course, lead the organization to continue on a positive path with reduced conflict and higher productivity. Largely, the problem solving steps are quite simple.
First, there is the identification and clarification of the issue, followed by a developing of alternatives, a selection of one or more of the alternatives, and finally, an implementation phase followed by an evaluation of outcomes. So why, if a process is so simple, can it run into so many problems and pitfalls?
The Six Stages
- Problem Identification: Problems can arise for several reasons, whether it is from increased tension or process inefficiency. Either way, it is important to identify the problem. The use of questionnaires or small group discussions to determine the depth and breadth of the problem are just a few of your options.
- Diagnosis: Conflict clarification is the key to proper diagnosis. Understanding the scope of the conflict gives a clearer picture of how to diagnose it. Next, gathering evidence of the conflict must be done regarding the nature of the conflict. With this information, the conflict can be addressed and, to some extent, one can identify what needs to be changed.
- Alternative Resolutions: The easiest answer to conflict resolution may not be the best answer. That may be like applying a Band-Aid to a severed artery! The formulation of resolutions before ideas have been thoroughly explored reduces the quality of the proposed solution and tends to inhibit open communication. Ensure that all alternatives are thoroughly fleshed-out before deciding on a direction or strategy.
- Select Solutions: With the data collected and the alternatives reviewed, it is ideal to consider consequences of each alternative before implementation. In this phase, it is suggested that each alternative resolution be carefully evaluated. While it is difficult to get everyone to agree completely, it is critical to ensure buy-in so that everyone supports the chosen resolution.
- Implementation: An important aspect of implementing an agreed-upon resolution is to establish accountability. Accountability must be carefully cultivated so that individuals feel responsible for the outcome and are answerable to the others involved.
- Evaluation and Adjustment: By building in a mechanism of evaluation as well as the flexibility to make adjustments once the data is analyzed, the entire problem-solving process should remain flexible and open to new alternatives if needed. Problem solving is a circular process that continues in an ongoing fashion.
Focus on the Issues
These six phases can be useful markers for progress as the conflict management process advances. Keep in mind that conflict is an emotional situation that affects three specific areas:
Emotions and stress play significant roles during the conflict resolution process, so leaders must ensure everyone maintains focus on the issues with resolution as the goal. While conflict management is not simple, it can be a manageable process.
Successful leaders should already have become adept at communication, persuasion, and decision-making, and should apply these leadership attributes to successfully resolve conflict and move forward toward higher productivity, increased motivation, and organizational achievement.
Areas to Consider When Dealing with Conflict
- Provide a vision of the end game to depict how the situation could be once resolution is achieved.
- Motivate everyone toward resolution of the conflict.
- Keep everyone involved in the conflict management resolution process.
- Avoid “groupthink” to make certain all ideas are considered.
- Make sure everyone is heard.
- Encourage listening.
- Ensure everyone understands all sides of the issue or issues, even if they do not necessarily agree.
Be Aware of Feelings
Everyone has their own pace with which they process issues, so please keep that in mind as you move through the process. Further, keep an eye on nonverbal communication, as it can be just as powerful as any other type of communication. Finally, being emotionally aware of what others are feeling will perhaps reveal a better understanding of their point of view and may provide a clearer pathway toward resolution.
Conflict resolution is an issue that must be confronted delicately but with enough commitment toward resolution by all parties. Leaders must be aware of the issues within their organization and become involved to quickly and judiciously get rid of conflict roadblocks and move toward a more productive environment.
Following the six phases, along with understanding the needs of the individuals involved in conflict, will provide a strong advantage to the leader and may allow for a speedy recovery and a happier workplace.
How Do You Approach Conflict Resolution?
If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!
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Principled leaders add value through their insights to resolve conflicts by touching upon issues and dont attribute the conflicts to personnel. “Resolve the issue & not fix people”. MSK
Greg – Great post and a easy breakdown on conflict resolution. I manage conflict by understating a problem exit, making time to discuss, explore differences and then come up with a solution. While during the process using “I” statements. Thanks for sharing and good stuff.
Conflict resolution is, as you say, important at every level in an organization because conflict arises at every level. I especially appreciated your words about not running quickly to a resolution. Your Band-Aid analysis is right on. Over the years I’ve watched many organizations fight their way through solutions to the wrong problem. Determining the right problem takes time, determination, and cooperation. Great article Dr. Halpern.