Resolving Workplace Disputes

Ferrone & Associates CPAsBlog

It is inevitable that conflicts and disagreements with coworkers will crop up no matter if you work from home or in an office.  Whether conflicts stem from miscommunication, clashing priorities, or personality differences, it’s important for your sake, your team members’ sake, and the sake of the company that you resolve the issue professionally and courteously.

Here are a few practical strategies you can use to resolve disputes in the workplace.

Think and Plan Before You Engage

Before you engage, think about the real problem you want to solve. It can help to write it down but resist the urge to list every slight or infraction. Stick to the issue at hand. Often, the process of writing it out helps you get to what’s underneath instead of simply getting emotional.

Don’t just write down what’s wrong. Write down what’s working and what is good about the situation. Focusing on your relationship’s positive aspects ensures you keep a balanced view of the relationship rather than getting carried away focusing on the negative.

Get in the Right Mindset

Often, one of the most difficult aspects of resolving a dispute is gathering the courage to have that first conversation. So take some time to prepare mentally. Try to frame it in your mind as a positive, constructive conversation rather than a confrontation. When you enter into the conversation in the right mindset, the topic can be approached calmly and confidently and a productive conversation can be had. 

Timing is Everything

We tend to schedule difficult conversations for a time when it’s best for us. But to get the best results from this kind of meeting, schedule it at the best time for the other person. Make sure you block off plenty of time so you can both express where you’re coming from.

Remember, these conversations are best in person, but if that is not possible, video conferencing will work as well.

Have the Conversation

Once you get to your conversation, walk through the notes you prepared to discuss what is and isn’t working. Start with a positive focus to remind you both that you’re on the same team, even if you don’t see eye to eye on a particular issue.

Remember not to talk at the other person. Listen just as much as you talk and don’t interrupt. Sometimes, the conflict will resolve itself simply because you seek to understand the other person.  

Schedule a Follow-Up Meeting

Once you’ve agreed on a plan of action, don’t let that be the end of the conversation. Schedule a time for a follow-up meeting a few weeks later. This allows you to ensure both of you are accountable for following through with your plan or tweak it if things aren’t working out.

If All Else Fails . . .

Sometimes, even two people with the best intentions have trouble finding common ground. If you can’t meet in the middle, bring in a third party to facilitate the conversation.

The third-party can be a manager, partner, HR expert, or an outside facilitator. Select someone you both respect and empower them to help you reach a better resolution, so the outcome is best for the firm – not one individual or the other.

Whenever people are engaged and committed, conflict and disagreement are bound to happen. Dealing with that conflict can be intimidating and unpleasant, but it’s necessary. Remember to focus on the relationship. Conflict isn’t about the situation but about the personalities, motivations, and rationales of human beings. Keep preserving a healthy working relationship high on your list of priorities, and the rest will work itself out.

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