Conflict Resolution Strategies for the Workplace

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Learn more about conflict resolution and potential strategies to implement in your workplace.

[Featured Image] Two coworkers practice conflict resolution, shaking hands in an office environment.

Conflict resolution is an essential tool you can use as a leader in your organization to help maintain a positive and productive environment. As conflicts or disagreements in the workplace typically exist to one degree or another, it is important to understand the best strategies to create resolution and improve communication and collaboration skills among you and your employees. 

In this article, you can learn how to improve your conflict resolution skills within the workplace by implementing positive practices and techniques.

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict resolution is a strategy for ending a dispute and finding a solution between two or more parties. It can involve differences between two people, negativity or obstruction to solutions, or even anger or disagreements between multiple parties. The goal of conflict resolution is to end a dispute and reach a solution that satisfies everyone involved. 

Conflict can happen for a number of reasons, whether it is a sense of imbalance, lack of resources, personality differences, or systematic changes. Conflict resolution can be a great opportunity to bring your employees together and find unexpected similarities when implemented properly in such situations.

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What is conflict?

Conflict occurs when at least two parties differ or oppose and cannot find solutions to their issues. Conflict may involve two of your employees with different perceived outcomes to a problem or an entire team disagreeing on a project’s direction. When a team cannot agree on one outcome, they can find their different perspectives to be a hindrance rather than an asset.

Conflict does not necessarily have to be negative. It can be an opportunity to explore a unique perspective different from your own. Despite its uncomfortable nature, conflict can result in growth and understanding. It is natural, especially in a diverse and hardworking environment where employees may have differing views on everything.  

Why is conflict resolution important?

Conflict resolution is important because it disrupts a negative cycle that could affect the environment of your workplace. Instead of avoiding conflict altogether, which is inevitable, conflict resolution aims to create understanding and discussions that turn conflict into a productive and empathetic experience for those involved. It can promote healthy and growing employee interactions, improving interpersonal relationships. 

As your employees continue to interact and reconcile their interests, you may see positive organizational improvements, such as a more flexible workforce. Conflict resolution can enhance your employees’ commitment to achieving organizational goals and generate new and innovative ideas for the organization.

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Conflict resolution strategies

So how do you begin to implement conflict resolution in your business? The following conflict resolution strategies are practices you can implement in your workforce, whether you are managing conflict between your employees or you are experiencing a disagreement.

1. Find a neutral space.

A neutral, safe space is an important primary step in conflict resolution. Have the conflicting parties meet in a neutral environment to encourage fairness and constructive discussions. A supervisor’s office creates a power dynamic that may affect your employees’ ability to feel comfortable sharing their perspectives. In contrast, neutral spaces offer a sense of privacy that creates a more mature, inclusive environment. For optimal comfort and privacy, consult with the parties involved about what space they feel is neutral and strive to reach a consensus so everyone is on equal footing.

2. Use active listening.

Promoting active listening is important to create a positive space for your employees. Active listening involves concentrating on what the other person is saying and processing their thoughts before sharing your perspective. Conflict will often occur because one of your employees may feel their concerns are invalid or misunderstood, resulting in them feeling undervalued and unheard. Make sure you or the involved parties are taking time to focus on what one person is saying before forming opinions or actions.

3. Be a mediator.

Conflict resolution requires you to act as a mediator between your employees in the event of an internal conflict. You may also enlist a third-party mediator to step into this role if you are one of the conflicting parties or need additional assistance. Mediation seeks to find a mutually acceptable resolution between conflicting parties to end the conflict agreeably and fairly. Typically, mediation results in voluntary and sustainable resolutions rather than trade-offs.

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4. Find areas of agreement.

Finding similarities between the involved parties can help them understand each other’s perspectives better, allowing them to focus on where they agree—rather than disagree. You can encourage the conflicting parties to agree upon the definition of the problem, what procedure they would feel most comfortable following, and what can change to create a long-lasting solution.

5. Utilize negotiation.

The negotiation strategy seeks to discuss various solutions that encompass all the needs and interests of the parties involved in the conflict. Negotiation is usually a quicker way to solve a conflict and attempts to improve the relationship between parties by reaching a compromise or agreement. By determining alternative actions, you can explore both sides of the initial conflict and develop a backup plan if an agreement is unsuccessful. When done correctly,  a negotiation can promote a smoother, more positive relationship between the conflicting parties in the future. 

Read more: How to Improve Your Negotiation Skills

6. Identify a solution.

You can identify and implement a solution to resolve the conflict using alternative strategies and trade-offs brought about by negotiation. Determine which of the proposed actions you and the involved parties should take to rectify the situation and ensure that everyone will be actively, not passively, involved in carrying out the agreed-upon solution. You should also determine a follow-up plan if the solution is unsuccessful or monitor the parties involved to prevent a similar conflict from arising again. 

Getting started with Coursera

Before implementing conflict resolution strategies in your workplace, ensure that you understand conflict resolution and how to handle conflict as a leader in your organization.

On Coursera, you can explore courses like ESSEC Business School’s  Mediation and Conflict Resolution course or Macquarie University’s Negotiation Skills: Negotiate and Resolve Conflict course to improve mediation skills and learn new approaches to conflict resolution. With the help of Coursera for Business, your employees can develop practical skills and acquire new tools and strategies for handling conflict and negotiation in the workplace.

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Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.