Conflict Resolution Tips Every Manager Should Know

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Conflict Resolution Tips Every Manager Should Know conflict resolution manager

Working in any organization means working with people that have a variety of opinions, perspectives, and/or work styles. And while organizations who foster such diversity are the strongest type of organizations, it doesn’t always mean everyone will get along 100% of the time.

Managers need to be able to recognize when problems are brewing and feel comfortable and equipped to work with staff members in resolving these issues.

We spoke with Jackie Mueckenheim, Senior Trainer with ERC’s Learning and Development Team, about why it’s important for managers to understand how to resolve problems that occur in the workplace, what are some common problems, and four conflict resolution skills that every manager should know.

Managers should know how to resolve problems

Problems are inevitable in any workplace in any industry—whether customer problems, computer or system problems, staff performance problems, relationship problems, or any other topic that can result in conflict. That’s why it’s important for managers to understand how to resolve them.

“Managers who see themselves as problem solvers, as removers of obstacles and barriers, and as champions of solutions, are invaluable to an organization and to the individuals who report directly to them,” says Mueckenheim.

Mueckenheim goes on to say that “When we resolve a problem, when we come out on the other side of it and have worked to ensure a positive (or at least neutral outcome) for all, we have contributed to a more productive culture and environment.”

Common problems managers face among employees

One of the most common problems managers face among employees is when two staff members don’t get along. It could be because of a personality clash, a work style difference, or both employees have very different opinions about something, professionally or personally. Whichever it is, it can be tough to navigate.

“One key strategy is to keep communication channels open,” says Mueckenheim. “Be sure to set up an expectation for all parties involved that not resolving the issue is not an option."

Successful managers will understand that a small issue can become a larger issue that affects the entire team, if not handled effectively and swiftly.

Four conflict resolution skills every manager should know

  1. Don’t fear conflict! Conflict, by definition, is simply a difference of opinions, ideas, viewpoints, or approaches. Conflict is good; without it, we would never have innovation and growth.
  2. Conflict only turns negative when emotions take a front seat to the ideas. Encourage individuals to be able to separate feelings from facts.
  3. Watch language patterns when mediating conflict. Choose “I” over “You” statements to avoid judgment or labeling.
  4. Don’t exaggerate by using words like “every,” “always,” or “never.”  Especially, when dealing with conflict related to correcting behaviors or performance, cite specific examples.

Why it’s important for managers to know how to manage conflict

When someone decides to move into a people management role, they truly need to understand and embrace that the most important aspect of their new role is to navigate the human element of their workplaces.

“A great deal of workplace problems and issues are found in human interaction, or lack of human interaction. As a result, if these situations aren’t handled swiftly, effectively, and with empathy and understanding, then problems mount, positive cultures break down, and employee job satisfaction and morale suffers,” says Mueckenheim.

Ultimately, the organization's bottom line is negatively impacted - all because people feared dealing with a “sticky” situation. Be sure to keep lines of communication open to ensure a smooth outcome. 

Special advice from the Pro

  1. Get in there and deal with “it” as soon as you see it
  2. Don’t assume you know everything about the situation
  3. Ask questions of everyone involved
  4. Listen to all perspectives
  5. Don’t focus on blame or who created the problem
  6. Work collaboratively to find a solution that everyone involved can support (or at least accept)

By following Mueckenheim's advice, managers will hopefully feel more comfortable and equipped to resolve issues that arise in the workplace. For more information on Jackie Mueckenheim and her training and consulting services, visit here.

Conflict Resolution & Mediation Training

Conflict Resolution & Mediation Training

The course demonstrates how constructive conflict resolution techniques can be useful.

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