Your work environment can get stressful sometimes, right?

Deadlines, unwieldy projects, and conflict. Ah yes, conflict.

When conflict erupts, tension will rise. But there are a number of effective techniques you can employ to help prevent these situations from occurring in the first place. Or to minimize the fallout when things do flare up.

1. Take a time out & calm down

Of course prevention is always best, but when a problem has gotten out of hand it is better to give it some time before you try to put a solution on place.

This point is underlined by the head of the American Psychological Association’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, David W. Ballard, who says, “Address the issue early, before it turns into a bigger problem, but be sure to wait until things have cooled down,” adding. “It’s difficult to have a productive discussion if you and your co-worker are angry or upset. Wait until you are both clear-headed.”

2. Ensure a positive outlook

There are many reasons why conflict occurs, but it’s often due to small incremental issues that build up over time.

As a result, it can be difficult for people involved in the conflict to make balanced and reasonable decisions. Try to ensure that colleagues, involved in a conflict can meet in a neutral place, are able to speak calmly to one another, and that everyone is treated with respect. If you approach a problem with negative expectations, it is likely that is what you will find as a result.

3. Practice active listening

If you are aggrieved about an issue in the workplace, it is easy to become emotional. This can prevent you from being able to clearly hear a message that’s integral to achieving a solution. The process of active listening will help to arrive at an effective resolution more quickly and with less pain. This involves paying attention to what is being said, asking questions for clarity, and trying to see the problem from the other person’s viewpoint.

Active listening is a powerful tool, and can be practiced in your daily work environment. No conflict required.

4. Get all parties to suggest a solution

For every conflict, there are at least two sides to the story. Maybe even three or four.

That’s what makes the situation so sticky. It is often the case that each party has given little consideration to a solution which will be suitable to everyone involved. If you are mediating in a conflict it is good practice to get each party to recommend a solution that will be acceptable to their opponent. Solutions have a much higher likelihood of being successful if they have been suggested by those involved in the dispute.

5. Get each party to consider their part in the conflict

There’s always an explanation behind each conflict. In some cases, the instigator of a problem will not have considered the significance of their actions. They may have an attitude that suggests everything has been completely blown out of proportion. In finding a resolution to a problem it is important to get all of the people involved to clearly recognize the role they played in creating the problem and the impact that the conflict has had on others. This will allow them to devise a solution which is tenable to all involved.

Have you experienced conflict at work lately? How did it impact you? How did you resolve it?

About the author: this guest post was written by Richard Greenwood from Odyssey Training. His firm provides professional development training for managers and employees at all levels. Courses including conflict resolution training and sessions on dealing with difficult people at work.

Image courtesy of Jochen Frey