Want to know how to resolve conflict between two employees at work?
According to Thomas and Schmidt, managers spend up to 20% of their time handling conflicts. Wherever there is interaction, there is conflict. So, conflicts are common in every workplace.
A conflict can be good in certain scenarios if it boosts healthy competition and productivity. These conflicts are generally known as constructive conflicts.
However, there are also destructive conflicts, which lead to stress and low productivity. Therefore, you need proper strategies to address them.
As you know, there are different types of conflicts that can adversely affect a business. Among all, the most popular one is interpersonal conflict. A conflict between two employees is the best example of interpersonal conflict.
So, the question is “how to resolve conflict between two employees at work?”
Well, here are two approaches for you – a traditional approach and an advanced approach.
So, let’s get started!
How to resolve conflict between two employees at work? A Traditional Approach
First, let’s have a look at some quick strategies that have been used traditionally. You can try any of these strategies depending on the nature of the conflict.
5 Traditional Strategies to Resolve Conflict Between Two Employees
In some situations, a leader or manager is supposed to take a passive role and ignore the conflict completely. From a leader’s standpoint, it is better to avoid getting involved in a situation that would create further controversy. Moreover, some conflicts are not worth your time to get involved and find a solution. Here the parties involved in the conflict can either solve it or just move forward.
Cons of this strategy: Ignoring the conflict can sometimes prove to be disastrous. This is because the revengeful attitude of the conflicting parties can seriously affect the overall work process. This happens especially when those employees work together in a team.
In some cases, the manager demands the need for unity rather than figuring out the issue of the conflict itself. Here the manager can try to switch employees’ focus from conflict to cooperation by being understanding and helpful to them.
Cons of this strategy:This is only a temporary solution because the issues are never addressed here. This can lead to emotional outbursts sooner or later.
This is a useful strategy especially when two parties have fairly equal power. Here you can reach a solution by balancing the demands of both individuals and negotiating in a ‘give and take’ position. In this case, one person cannot force his viewpoint on the other. Thus, the only solution is to compromise.
Cons of this strategy: Some parties may not be willing to sacrifice, and hence the compromise talk can fail.
This strategy works only when the conflicting parties are of different strengths. For example, a conflict between the team leader and a junior employee. Here the dominant party always has an upper hand, so he can force the other person to give up. This makes one person a clear winner and the other one a clear loser.
Cons of this strategy: The forcing strategy can likely make the conflicting parties dissatisfied with their jobs. As a result, it will reduce their job performance.
When a conflict arises due to semantic misunderstandings, you can use this strategy. Here you will find a solution by discussing and respecting different viewpoints.
Cons of this strategy: This strategy wouldn’t work on conflicts that are non-communicative in nature. For example, conflicts that are based on different value systems.
How to resolve conflict between two employees at work? An Advanced Approach
If the strategies discussed above don’t work for you, it’s better to go with an advanced approach. This approach is a combination of all these traditional strategies. However, the execution is quite different.
In this approach, there are 5 different steps given below:
Step 1: Understand the cause of conflict
First, you should understand the exact reason behind the conflict. In some situations, a conflict is desirable because it creates challenges and changes within the company. The management can take advantage of those scenarios by adopting a policy of conflict stimulation.
So, why should you go for conflict stimulation?
Because it encourages creativity and involvement.
These constructive conflicts can make your employees think outside the box, and bring the best in them. In such cases, you can simply take a passive role and encourage the conflict.
Here are some factors in which you can encourage the conflict:
- Low employee turnover rate
- Lack of new ideas
- Too much satisfaction with the status quo
- Friendly relations taking dominance over company goals
- High resistance to change
- Extreme efforts at avoiding conflict
Well, taking a passive role doesn’t mean that you can completely ignore the conflict.
Always be watchful!
Sometimes, conflicts can become destructive. In those cases, you must try to resolve it quickly with proper management strategies. Don’t neglect this, or it can be costly.
As a leader, you need to get things done in your workplace. Likewise, you need to make sure that there are no serious issues affecting your employees. So, digging deep into the scenario will give you a better understanding of the cause of conflict. It also helps you decide whether the conflict requires your involvement or not.
Step 2: Give them time to compromise
Generally, many conflicts resolve in this stage. Here you should give enough time for both parties to talk to each other and compromise.
You should not allow a third person into their conversation. Let the employees communicate with each other and resolve the issue.
A compromise is not something that makes one person a winner and the other one a loser. It should be a win-win for both parties.
Step 3: Listen to both parties in an unbiased manner
If things still don’t work, it’s time for you to step in.
Each individual has a different view. Perhaps, one person’s view may not be right for another person. So, it is very crucial for you to listen to both parties and understand what they want to say. For this, you can talk to the conflicting parties privately and hear each side in an unbiased manner.
You don’t need to suggest anything at this stage. Just listen, that’s all.
This will help you understand what exactly is going through each person’s mind. Probably, it can be a useless conflict, which occurred due to ego clashes or differences in opinions.
Well, you don’t realize it unless you ask them, right?
Step 4: Suggest a solution after proper investigation
Remember, the objective of conflict resolution is not to determine who is right or wrong.
For this reason, your focus should be on finding a solution that will make things back on track. So, it’s your responsibility to come up with a solution.
Sometimes, you may not get all the information by simply listening to the conflicting employees. So, don’t rush yourself to a conclusion, and do a proper investigation instead. For that, you can ask other team members about the issue. You need to know the truth, not just what you hear from the conflicting parties.
In reality, this is a testing stage for you as a leader as well as a decision-maker. You don’t want to appear as a biased leader. On the other hand, you want to appear as a problem solver. This is why investigating every aspect of the conflict is important.
After careful analysis, you can make a plan to solve the problem. Then, share it with the conflicting parties. Make sure that both parties agree with your plan.
As a leader, you should always keep a record of the incidents occurring in your workplace including conflicts. Therefore, don’t forget to document this.
Step 5: Motivate and monitor
Your job isn’t over once you find a solution.
After resolving a conflict, make sure that both employees get back to work as normal. For this reason, it’s a good idea to motivate them to focus on the tasks as well as goals. This is crucial because you don’t want your employees to think about the conflict situation again.
Conducting several team building activities can help them refresh and recharge. So, try some activities that promote communication, collaboration, and teamwork.
Once things are back on track, you should monitor the progress of conflicting employees. Make sure that they are following your plan.
Remember, not all conflicts are bad. Constructive conflicts can bring some positive changes to your company. However, if the conflict becomes destructive, you need to use your leadership skills to resolve them. Hopefully, these approaches will help you resolve the conflicts between employees and direct them towards your company goals.