What is Workplace Conflict Resolution?

Conflict is everywhere, and the workplace is no exception. Too often, these conflicts turn into heated arguments, low morale, loss of productivity, and turnover, which translate into rising costs for the employer.

Every individual brings a unique viewpoint and skills to the workplace. Many times, workplace conflicts are the result of miscommunications and misunderstandings about a co-worker. As an example, a highly task-oriented employee might conclude that a people-oriented, deliberative co-worker is slow and lazy, while the people-oriented employee might wonder why the task-oriented employee is insensitive and does not listen to her input before making a decision. These employees simply approach their work differently. They may benefit from workplace conflict resolution to understand the root causes of their disagreements and to devise a plan to move forward in a more productive way.

The workplace conflict resolution process is unique. It involves bringing both parties to the table with the assistance of a third-party neutral. This third-party neutral is trained to facilitate a discussion among the conflicting parties to allow them to resolve their dispute or conflict on their own terms. Through this process, both parties are given a fair chance to articulate their concerns and to provide input on an agreement.

Workplace conflict resolution is far more efficient than its alternative. As mentioned above, allowing workplace conflicts to fester among employees has high costs from a business perspective: low productivity, lack of engagement, high turnover, etc. But that is not all. In some cases, workplace conflicts ripen into wrongful termination claims or other legal action against the company. Workplace conflict resolution or mediation is a far less expensive means of addressing the problem.

Workplace conflict resolution is also more effective at identifying and addressing the root causes of the conflict. For example, suppose a new employee feels that it is unfair that her supervisor puts his name on reports that he turns in to upper management – even when she has done much of the work. She wants to advance in the company but does not know how she will do so without proper recognition. She does not understand that it is company policy for supervisors to put their name on all reports prepared for upper management. As a result of this lack of recognition, the new employee’s attitude and productivity falter. She begins looking for other opportunities. Her supervisor notices her lack of productivity and disciplines her. The new employee believes that her supervisor is treating her unfairly as a result of her gender. She could bring a complaint for gender discrimination, but that process would not address her real concerns. It would not allow the employee to express her concerns about advancement and credit for her work, the supervisor to explain the company policy, or for the two of them to work through their misunderstanding and to craft a solution to move forward.

Of course, not all workplace conflicts can be so easily resolved. It cannot be ignored that discrimination, sexual harassment, or bullying are very real dangers in the workplace. In those situations, there may be no opportunity for the conflict to be resolved. Nonetheless, in many cases, workplace conflict resolution is a valuable tool, and companies and their human resource professionals are encouraged to utilize it in appropriate situations to create a healthier and more productive workplace for their employees.

If you believe that your company would benefit from workplace conflict resolution, please contact me to discuss the benefits of this program.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: