The Five Steps to Conflict Resolution
Jul 25, 2019
By AMA Staff
The definition of conflict resolution is to resolve an issue or problem between two or more people, but is there a correct way to handle conflict? What are the effects of poor conflict management? Disagreements in the workplace are inevitable, as employees have different personalities, goals, and opinions.
Conflict management is one of the core training courses we offer for managers and supervisors. Learning how to handle disputes efficiently is a necessary skill for anyone in management and the key to preventing it from hindering employees' professional growth. Here is the conflict resolution process in five steps.
Step 1: Define the source of the conflict.
The more information you have about the cause of the problem, the more easily you can help to resolve it. To get the information you need, use a series of questions to identify the cause, like, “When did you feel upset?” “Do you see a relationship between that and this incident?” “How did this incident begin?”
As a manager or supervisor, you need to give both parties the chance to share their side of the story. It will give you a better understanding of the situation, as well as demonstrate your impartiality. As you listen to each disputant, say, “I see” or “uh huh” to acknowledge the information and encourage them to continue to open up to you.
Step 2: Look beyond the incident.
Often, it is not the situation but the point of view of the situation that causes anger to fester and ultimately leads to a shouting match or other visible and disruptive result.
The source of the conflict might be a minor issue that occurred months before, but the level of stress has grown to the point where the two parties have begun attacking each other personally instead of addressing the real problem. In the calm of your office, you can get them to look beyond the triggering incident to see the real cause. Once again, probing questions will help, like, “What do you think happened here?” or “When do you think the problem between you first arose?
Step 3: Request solutions.
After getting each party’s viewpoint, the next step is to get them to identify how the situation could be changed. Again, question the parties to solicit their ideas: “How can you make things better between you?”As mediator, you have to be an active listener, aware of every verbal nuance, as well as a good reader of body language.
You want to get the disputants to stop fighting and start cooperating, and that means steering the discussion away from finger pointing and toward ways of resolving the conflict.
Step 4: Identify solutions both disputants can support.
You are listening for the most acceptable course of action. Point out the merits of various ideas, not only from each other’s perspective, but in terms of the benefits to the organization. For instance, you might suggest the need for greater cooperation and collaboration to effectively address team issues and departmental problems.
Step 5: Agreement.
The mediator needs to get the two parties to shake hands and accept one of the alternatives identified in Step 4. The goal is to reach a negotiated agreement. Some mediators go as far as to write up a contract in which actions and time frames are specified. However, it might be sufficient to meet with the individuals and have them answer these questions: “What action plans will you both put in place to prevent conflicts from arising in the future?” and “What will you do if problems arise in the future?
This mediation process works between groups as well as individuals.
Related AMA Courses, Seminars, and Workshops
AMA provides industry-leading courses in relevant business topics. Interested in improving your conflict resolution skills? Try one of the below courses:
Or, browse our Communication Skills category.
About the Author(s)
American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.