Resolving conflict in the workplace

Conflict in life is unavoidable. It could be said that it is part of human nature.

However, conflict in the workplace can put an additional strain on what may already be a stress-filled situation. With upward of one-third of any given day spent in the workplace, it’s always beneficial to have a place of employment that you don’t dread going to each morning because of intraoffice strife – be it between a manager and an employee or between co-workers.

Workplace conflict has negative results that run the gamut from lowered morale and lost productivity due to a diversion of time and energy to sabotage, mental distress and the potential for actual physical violence.

In an article on the Business Performance Improvement Resource website, one expert estimates that some managers dedicate 40 percent to 90 percent of their time dealing with conflicts in one form or another. The same article states that unresolved conflicts could lead up to more than 50 percent of resignations.

There are many causes or reasons for conflict in any work setting, but the human resources department at the University of Oklahoma identified several primary causes: poor communication, different values, scarce resources, personality clashes and poor performance.

Yet identifying conflict is the easy part. Addressing it is another matter entirely. The most common methods to address conflict are:

  • Avoidance:Hiding your head in the sand and hoping the conflict will go away.
  • Collaboration:Working together to find a mutually beneficial solution.
  • Compromise:Finding the middle ground where a little is given and a little is gotten.
  • Competing:Battling for a desired outcome when pitted against the desired outcome of someone else.
  • Accommodation:Surrendering your own needs and wishes to please the other person.

It is generally believed that collaboration or compromise are the most productive forms of addressing conflict because there is not a winner or loser but rather a working together toward best possible solution.

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