Four Steps to Mastering Conflict Resolution

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Four Steps to Mastering Conflict Resolution

No one can avoid conflict eternally. Disputes between people are inevitable, especially in the work environment. Not resolving differences can result in disharmony, economic damage, or even death. According to one study of conflict in the workplace, US employees spend “2.1 hours per week involved with conflict.” Such unproductive time may represent a cost of as much as $359 billion. In 2014, killings by colleagues were the fourth-largest cause of workplace homicides.

Naturally, conflict resolution is a prized skill to have in today’s workplace. Various colleges offer conflict resolution programs, and other institutions offer short courses. Thanks to increased knowledge, we now know how to minimize clashes. This piece summarizes the four steps involved in conflict resolution.


One of the first steps to take is to recognize the issue and parties involved in the disagreement. Sometimes, the topic itself may not be the problem. Politics, culture, and personality might cloud the reason for conflict. Be careful to identify the exact person involved in causing the conflict. Colleagues may instigate others while themselves staying out of the picture. Clarifying the exact issue and people may take time and skills, but it is a foundation for successful conflict resolution.

Listening and understanding may take time. However, these activities are essential to identify the problem and parties involved in the clash and the steps that follow to resolve the disputes.

Note that there is a distinction between hearing and listening. Hearing, as an MIT scientist has explained, is a passive activity that does not engage the brain as much. On the other hand, listening involves using the brain and senses to understand precisely what the other person is saying. Listening is key to understanding the problem and the warring parties. Emotional intelligence is key to successful listening and understanding.

Reach Agreement

Once those involved in resolving conflict identify and understand the nature of the dispute and the people involved, it is time to reach an agreement. Usually, the manager must step in when the individuals in disagreement are unable to resolve their issues themselves. Managers can find effective negotiation training helpful at three stages. First, it can help them gather as much knowledge as possible about the dispute and the parties involved. Second, it will help them to recognize the pitfalls and opportunities during the process of reaching an agreement. Third, it will help them to see the right time to take the appropriate actions.

Monitor and Adjust

It is not enough to successfully settle a dispute through negotiating at the office table. Monitoring the people involved will be necessary to avoid further problems. Sometimes, people may agree to put an end to a clash but still harbor grudges against their colleague or organization. When people feel unfairly treated in the process of reaching an agreement, or when they feel relatively powerless, they may have feelings of resentment. Actively monitoring the people involved in the conflict will help in avoiding damage to the organization or individual.

Make sure to collect data and metrics to assess the effectiveness of the conflict resolution. Empirical information is useful to make adjustments to the conflict resolution process, the cause of conflict, or the people involved. Such evidence is especially crucial if managers need to remove people from the situation for the health of the organization.


Conflicts in the workplace may not always be deadly, but they do cause damage to an organization’s productivity and employee morale. Conflict resolution skills are a prized competency for valued employees. Indeed, the steps outlined above for resolving disputes in the workplace can be applied in many settings. Who knows, with proper preparation and training, those who are skilled at conflict resolution may go on to play crucial roles not just in their organizations but also on the national and international stages.

By  Carol Evenson Embed

Author Bio - Carol Evenson is a corporate trainer and experienced business consultant. She specializes in team management and growth hacking.


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