5 Ways To Deal With Team Conflict

Conflicts are inevitable, even in the most engaged of workplaces. Regardless of the source of the conflict, if they are left unresolved, conflicts can quickly impact employee morale and productivity. This article will cover a few ways to deal with team conflict you should practice.

1. Acknowledge the Conflict

Ignoring the issues may save someone’s feelings in the short run, but more than likely you will work with this person on future projects. If the issues continue to arise, your built-up resentment may eventually lead to arguments. Avoid anger buildups by facing the conflict head-on and letting your teammate know you disagree with their course of action. While not always pleasant, getting these small disagreements out in the open can help head off future disputes.

2. Listen

Every conflict resolution process begins with listening. It might sound simple, but it tends to be one of the more difficult things for many people to do. This is especially the case for leaders at work who prefer to move past problems quickly by avoiding confrontation or jumping straight into the solution.

You won’t craft an effective solution without actively listening to people. That means no presuppositions or assumptions, and being curious about what they may be experiencing – whether or not you agree with them.

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2. Empathize

Now it’s time to take what you heard and do your best to put yourself in their shoes. Remember, this does not mean you have to agree with their assessment. You do, however, need to understand how they feel about a situation. What might they be going through? What feelings are beneath the words they are saying? How does it feel to experience those emotions?

Regardless of how they saw the situation, it’s essential to acknowledge that they’re experiencing powerful emotions. You might not be able to relate to why they’re feeling that way, but you can probably relate to how sadness or anger or fear feeling. So, do your best to focus on the underlying feelings rather than the story.

3. Apologize

Now, if you were part of the problem they are bringing up, then it may be necessary for you to apologize. Apologies go a long way in helping people feel validated. Again you can apologize and own your actions without necessarily agreeing with their assessment or story. Apologies and agreement can be mutually exclusive.

Make the apology about you – your actions – not about them. Never, for instance, apologize for how they feel or how they’re reacting. “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry you saw it like that” are truly ways of discounting their feelings, negating any acknowledgment or validation you are aiming for. Instead, own your role. For example, “I’m sorry I said that without considering how it might make you feel” or “I apologize for doing that. I didn’t realize how it might come off.” Notice that you don’t have to say “you’re right” or “I agree.” Just own your role, what you did, and where you fell short.

However, if you do agree with their assessment, then let them know. And then tell them what you’re going to do about it.

4. List Facts and Assumptions Based on Each Position

Once each team member has been allowed to explain their stance on the conflict, list out the facts and assumptions that have been made. Simply writing down the complex facets of an argument can make things appear much clearer to the team. If one side of the conflict is lacking in reasoning, it may be obvious during this step. However, examining the information as a group prevents irrational arguments or possible favoritism from team members.

Resolution becomes much easier once these steps have been followed and the team meets again as a whole. After smaller groups have been allowed to freely discuss issues from every angle, viewpoints change, solving the initial conflict. Sometimes team members simply need to have their hesitations heard and discussed by the rest of the team. By analyzing the argument together, the team can move forward in agreement or at least a mutual understanding.

When your team is ready to make a decision, set up a list of actionable steps that can be taken to resolve the issue. Putting the conclusion down on paper makes the solution more tangible and creates a reference point for people that wish to review the team’s decision.

5. Celebrate the Resolution as a Team

Acknowledge specific contributions from individuals in the group. This will make them feel good about working towards a solution and leads to the entire team becoming more cohesive because of their united victory. Whether this “celebration” is something small like a congratulatory email or an afternoon off as a reward, recognizing the success promotes team bonding.

If you deal with team conflict properly, the team can be closer together. Respecting and appreciating your coworker’s differences is key to building a strong team. Resolving conflict when it does arise in a quick and proficient fashion helps maintain a strong and healthy team environment. Remaining open to differing beliefs and ideas is vital, and learning to view conflicts from a coworker’s perspective will help you become a more effective team member.

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