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11 Techniques to Successfully Manage Workplace Disagreements

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Alexandra Hayes – Creative Writer for BestEssays.com.au. Her opinions are her own. 

Managing a team is seldom a popularity contest. As a matter of fact, it is more like a series of stressful events accompanied by a large number of decisions to make in a short time frame. One of the roles that team managers have to take is mediation in case of a work disagreement between colleagues. It is imperative to handle such situations effectively in order to prevent a further escalation that could bring company operations to a stop. It’s up to the manager to find the best way to deal with the situation and make sure that the issue is solved with all sides leaving the incident behind.

There are many proven techniques to handle disagreements in various working environments, and in this post I’ve highlighted some of the best methods to successfully reach a resolution.

1. Listen carefully to both sides

There are usually two sides to a story when it comes to a workplace disagreement. The reason is not necessarily because one side is not telling the truth. It’s more often the lack of communication or a misunderstanding that sparks the fire. In order to start solving the issue, it is necessary to carefully listen to each of the participants and start resolving the problem from that point. If it turns out that the cause of the problem is poor communication, this first suggestion is all a good manager needs in order to turn a bad situation into a good place to start improving team communication.

2. Leave personal affections aside

No matter how well you may know one of the workers, or how pleased you might be with their performance and results, this should not affect the way you handle a problem. Measure arguments on both sides and check the facts in order to see which side is right. Once the manager hears all the arguments, there should be no problem to reach the decision that will resolve the issue at hand.

3. Focus on team building

When there is a continuous disagreement or workers tend to have minor conflicts from time to time, it is a smart idea to organize an event where all of the team members could participate. These types of events have a positive effect on the collective atmosphere and bring people together. It could also help the manager pay closer attention how certain people act in the non-work related environment. Simply put, sometimes the problem has nothing to do with work, and the answer resides much deeper.

4. Compromise when possible

There’s not a lot of people that like to hear they are wrong in an argument. In some cases, it is almost impossible to say which side is right either because of a lack of argument or because neither side is absolutely right or wrong. The answer to this pickle is a compromise: the leader should make a decision that allows both sides to settle down and leave the argument behind. It’s not the easiest way to handle problems, but being a leader is never easy.

5. Stay calm at all times

Being nervous or loud won’t help anyone reach a peaceful solution. Quite the opposite, the sides in dispute could grow even more restless and deepen the problem, leading it to a place where it can even stay unresolved for a long time. While sorting out the disagreement, the leader should talk calmly and try to create a peaceful atmosphere so everyone would feel comfortable. Moreover, a calm and focused manager is better suited to settle the issues than the one that’s agitated.

6. Ask questions

Instead of trying to talk team member out of the conflict, it could be beneficial to ask questions that would help the participants realize their role in the matter and reevaluate their position. The key to this technique is asking the right questions and not asking too many. Try to make your coworkers realize who is right on their own, but don’t go too far as it may seem you are trying to make a point, which could lead to a new problem.

7. Act outside your position

Actors usually speak about their roles in the third person. They separate themselves from the person they play in a movie. This allows them to make a clear space between them and the characters they are portraying. The same applies to leaders dealing with a certain conflict that could make a person think more about the other person than the issue. It is of paramount importance to keep the focus on the issue at all times, never focus on the person. Failing to keep the conflict at the center might seem as if a manager is pointing fingers, which is not the path any good leader wants to take.

8. Ask participants for an opinion

This technique allows managers to see what each of the sides expects from the conflict. Sometimes it is best to plainly ask what each of the colleagues has to say about the matter and how they think it should be resolved. This should be done in a calm manner, showing that you care about their view rather than appearing as if you’re out of ideas and just want to see which one is better.

9. Be proactive

There are occasions when the conflict is in a starting phase and it is up to the team leader to be the first to recognize the possibility for a future escalation. It is never a good idea to wait until the conflicting sides reach out for a solution. Rather take control of the situation while it’s in development because it is much easier to handle simpler problems.

10. Reality check

When people get into a conflict they often lose their perspective on the bigger picture. It is not unusual that stubbornness or heighten anxiety keep the participant from understanding the scale of the conflict against the size of the consequences that further confrontation holds. Point out to what is really important and the problem will be solved much quicker.

11. Look behind the curtain

Some people could have a secret agenda underneath the surface of an unsolvable conflict. If a problem is taking too long to resolve, it may be because one or all sides simply don’t want to solve the problem. In these types of situations, it is wise to ask yourself what could be the motive for the conflict? If it happens that person could have a hidden motive, think about your options and what would be the best way to handle the whole affair.

Alexandra Hayes

Alexandra Hayes is a HR specialist for SuperiorPapers.com as well as a creative writer. She enjoys visual arts and yoga. Alexandra is also starting out as photographer. Meet her on Twitter!

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