Resolve Conflicts Quickly and Fairly

By Gail Doby, ASID
CVO & Co-Founder, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University

Conflicts happen in any business.  However much we strive to cooperate and collaborate, personality differences and competing agendas can lead to disagreements with clients, co-workers, suppliers, or other members of a project team.  You can’t avoid conflict altogether, but you can take steps to bring about a satisfactory resolution quickly and restore relationships to a more positive, productive footing.

As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango.  The first step to resolving a conflict is for both parties to acknowledge that they are each contributing in some way to the problem.  Rather than confront the other party, let them know you are aware there is a conflict and that you want to resolve it. Don’t assume you know what the problem is. Engage them in a conversation to explore what’s behind the conflict. Really listen to what they have to say and try to understand from their point of view how you may also be at fault.  Then share with them your view of the situation, emphasizing points on which you are in agreement.  Avoid placing blame or making apologies.  Focus on what you both can do to remedy the situation and move beyond the conflict to a constructive resolution.

One of the most difficult steps in resolving a conflict is getting past the tendency to view it in terms of right and wrong.  More often than not, workplace conflicts arise from competing interests. Both parties feel they are doing the right thing from their point of view. True resolution can only come when each party’s interests have been addressed and accounted for. That requires compromise, mutual respect, and a willingness to work toward a larger goal.  Asserting one’s power or control over the other person may, in some cases, give you the upper hand and wring concessions from them, but it will only drive the underlying conflict deeper, and it will erupt again later more intensely.  Flexibility rather than force will bring about a more satisfactory resolution for both concerned.

We naturally try to avoid conflict.  No one wants to set himself or herself up to be the brunt of another’s anger or be subject to accusations and chastisement.  Nonetheless, the more you delay addressing a conflict, the worse it will get.  Acting quickly reduces the emotional strain and lowers the threshold for achieving a satisfactory resolution.  You can then get back to attending to the things that really matter.

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