All relationships, including those in an office environment, will eventually be faced with some level of confrontation. When workplace conflicts happen it is up to the leader to take the position of authority and steer the team back to a productive place. How can you do that without being labeled a micromanager or affecting the morale of your employees? Engaged conversation is one of the best solutions for workplace conflict. Here are three simple techniques to try next time a situation arises.
- Begin the conversation by clarifying each party’s stance on the matter.
This means giving both, or all, people involved an opportunity to share their side of the story without fear of interruption or retaliation by the other. It is important that both sides feel they have been heard clearly for this process to work. A strong leader will help the process by restating the arguments so they can each hear without simply waiting to respond. When rephrasing the statements from each party say it calmly and without judgment. Start with phrases such as “It sounds to me like you’re saying,” or “you seem to be suggesting.” This also gives each person a chance to further clarify their position if they feel it is necessary.
- Talk to someone outside of the argument.
Problem solving is not an individual sport. Once you have heard each person’s side of the story take some time to think it over. Use this opportunity to consult someone with no involvement in the conversation. This could be a trusted friend or a neutral colleague. The most important part of this process is to make sure that the person you speak with does not have any preconceived notions or biases. When you’re explaining the situation, try not to insert your own beliefs. Listen to what they have to say and don’t rush to make a decision right away.
- Shift the conversation to find middle ground.
Often the reason for these conflicts is that neither party wants the other to get their way. They may both equally believe that they are right in the matter but they don’t see a middle ground to determine how to solve it. As a neutral party it is up to you to see the commonalities in their arguments and steer them in a similar direction. Once again, talk with everyone involved and begin to shape and frame the conversation differently to create an equal solution.
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