Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies
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When you’re dealing with conflict in the workplace, consider the underlying causes. Conflict is rarely as simple as it seems on the surface. Problems at work are often caused — or exacerbated — by the following:

  • Ambiguous roles and responsibilities: Being vague with an employee about his job and the tasks associated with his duties creates a situation in which he’s left to decode your expectations. Create clear directives that include who, what, when, where, and why so he doesn’t trip over his co-workers just trying to get his job done.

  • Assumptions and expectations: Ask open-ended questions to see whether an employee is filling in details based on his past experiences (both on the job and in his personal life) or whether he’s seeing something you’re not.

  • Core values not being met: Rarely is a disagreement about surface issues. Determine what’s most important to an employee by uncovering his values. Use the insight to help him create long-lasting solutions based on what will satisfy all parties involved.

  • Differing personal lenses and filters through which co-workers interpret the world: Recognize that all members of your staff have individual lenses and filters through which they see and respond to their environments — and no two are the same. Deciphering the code and seeing things from their perspectives give you a new way to understand and approach problems.

  • Emotions hijacking conversations: When emotions are high, reasoning is low. Let things calm down, and then approach employees to discover what caused the reaction in the first place.

  • Group dynamics such as gossip and cliques: Cliques form in the workplace for a number of reasons, but whatever the motivation employees have for attaching themselves to co-workers, the attachment has both positive and negative repercussions. Use positive group momentum to your advantage and equalize the power when needed.

  • Miscommunication or vague language: Say what you mean and mean what you say. Avoid using language like “when you get to it” and “whatever you think.” Leaving things to an employee’s imagination can make for some pretty imaginative interpretations.

About This Article

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Vivian Scott is a Certified Mediator in private practice and a retired Microsoft marketing manager. She is a member of the Washington Mediation Association and volunteers as a mediator at the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish & Island Counties.

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