At some time in your leadership career, you’re going to encounter conflict.

To succeed in leadership, you must be able to deal with conflict, whether it involves you directly or the dispute is between other parties in your organisation. Learning how to address conflict effectively is necessary to keep teams, departments, and the wider organisation moving forward. 

Below we look at the benefits of conflict resolution, and how you can improve your skills in this area. We’ll also explore how not developing your conflict resolution skills as part of your professional development can disadvantage you as a leader. First, however, we begin by defining the concept of conflict resolution and understanding what is.

What is conflict resolution?

Conflict resolution is a formal or informal process in which two parties seek to resolve a disagreement peacefully. When a conflict goes unresolved, the disharmony can create a stressful, awkward, and generally difficult work environment. In fact, conflict is the single largest cause of poor performance, dissatisfaction and turnover. 

In a workplace, different types of conflict can occur. The dispute could emerge between co-workers, between a manager and a team member, or between a client and a service provider. The parties in conflict could even be groups, such as a management team facing disagreement from employees, or two or more departments all clashing with each other over an issue. 

Bringing a conflict to a civilised and peaceful conclusion carries lessons with it that each party, as well as the leader, can learn and apply should the same issues arise again. The person leading the conflict resolution process must be able to empathise with difficult personalities, be rational, and be an excellent mediator. 

Benefits of conflict resolution in the workplace

Conflict resolution has a variety of benefits for the workplace. Here are some of them:

  • Less stress and tension: No one wishes to work in a hostile environment, nor can they perform well in one. Good conflict resolution can reduce tension in the workplace significantly
  • Stronger relationships: Good conflict resolution can strengthen relationships between team members and management. People learn to appreciate and respect other’s points of view
  • Development of mindset and the will to solve problems: The process places the employees at the front line of the conflict. Together, they learn methods and techniques to solve problems
  • Achievement of goals: Conflict is a distraction. Employees and management can end up falling behind, and the team, department or organisation can fail to achieve its goals. Resolving the conflict can re-establish the harmony between employees and encourage them to work in the same direction.

How can I improve my conflict resolution skills?

Like many other skills, conflict resolution is learnable, and there are several ways you can improve it. You can find out more about conflict resolution in our blog post Conflict resolution in the workplace. Meanwhile, below we offer a few brief suggestions you can follow to build your own conflict resolution skills:

  • Separate the person from the problem: Emotions can run high in a conflict situation, and it’s important to untie the person from the problem while you resolve it. Focus on the issue and the process of resolving it, rather than linking the problem to a specific person or group
  • Clarify the problem in a neutral environment: To clarify what the problem is and find a way to resolve it, you must provide a safe, neutral space to discuss the matter. Act as a mediator, if possible, or ensure one can attend to set out some professional guidelines for professional, respectful interaction and for determining the factors that are creating the disagreement
  • Brainstorm a list of options: Think of and explore as many solutions as possible. This isn’t a case of one person ‘winning’ with a solution, but of identifying a solution that will benefit everyone i.e. a ‘win-win’ solution
  • Agree on a suggested solution: Establish a formal or informal process for agreeing on a solution and acknowledging that the solution proposed is the best one

Our Conflict Transformation: Tackling Conflict in the Workplace course encourages the participants to adopt a proactive attitude towards conflict in the workplace and equips them with the skills to address conflict in a sensible, fair, and effective manner. Participating in the course will provide you with insight into the realities behind conflict and discuss elements such as blame, anger, the emotional dimension to conflict, judgment, and empathy, and look at different models of intervention. Completing the course will enable you to tackle conflict situations assertively, confidently, and effectively. 

Conflict resolution: part of a leader’s toolkit

Management roles entail being able to cope with high amounts of pressure and responsibility. Conflict resolution is important because if or when a conflict breaks out, you must be able to resolve the situation adequately to sustain progress. Not being able to approach a conflict will increase your stress levels as the situation goes from bad to worse. 

A leader who remains objective and empathetic can gradually guide the employees towards finding a solution and re-establish harmony on the team. The insight a leader gains from training in conflict management and resolution will help them to minimise the damage the dispute can inflict upon team morale and productivity. Having resolved the conflict, the parties on each side of the disagreement can regain focus and move forward in the same direction to benefit the organisation and accomplish its goals.

How could a conflict situation look for a leader who doesn’t build conflict resolution skills?

A leader who doesn’t build their conflict resolution skills can expect a more difficult time if discord does emerge. The conflict will eat into the leader’s productivity, into that of the parties involved, and possibly into the wider productivity of the team. Until resolved, the conflict situation will distract the leader and the parties in disagreement from their work, and the resultant ill-feeling and bad atmosphere can disturb the focus of those in the vicinity. Deadlines can be missed. The standard of work can diminish. Performance, overall, suffers.

Failure to resolve the conflict will also breed mistrust towards the leader, whose credibility will wane as well. In extreme cases, employees who are dissatisfied with the leader and their handling of the situation may leave the team, either transferring to another team or department or finding somewhere else to work altogether. The organisation must then spend time and possibly money trying to replace this employee.

Book a conflict transformation course with us

Being able to resolve a conflict is just as important as being able to delegate the right tasks to people and guide the team to deliver an effective performance for the organisation. To resolve the conflict successfully, the leader must possess the courage to lead a conflict resolution process, show empathy during the process, and remain objective. Booking a place on our conflict transformation course allows you to approach conflict situations confidently and equip yourself with the knowledge and tools to turn the situation around.

To find out more about this course and book your place on it, click on the course link in this blog. We also invite you to contact us via the form on our Contact page, email at enquiries@inpd.co.uk or on 0161 826 3139. We welcome any questions you have about the course, too, of course, so feel free to get in touch if you have any queries you wish to resolve before booking your place.

The ability to tackle conflict is essential, and, as a leader, you’ll encounter situations of conflict in the course of your duties. We suggest improving your skills so that you can navigate conflict situations successfully and drive your organisation forward. We look forward to assisting you.


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