Dealing with Resistance in Workplace Conflict Resolution

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Conflict in the workplace can be a challenge for leaders, managers and human resource professionals who are called in to help employees resolve difference and work together better.   It is common to see individuals that are reluctant to address the conflict and resist assistance and conflict coaching support.

Here are a few ways to engage resistant individuals in resolving conflict at work:

  1. Ask questions! There is a tendency to ask leading or closed ended questions which will never help you understand where the resistance is coming from.  Ask questions like “what is making you reluctant to address this conflict?” or “what is the best outcome that could result from resolving these issues?” or “what impact is NOT having the conflict resolved having on you, your team, and your family?”
  2. Provide conflict coaching or skills training to help the employee build confidence, skills and comfort to effectively resolve the situation and to ensure preparedness for the conflict resolution conversation.
  3. Access the support of an external conflict resolution expert to work with the employees prior to commencing a conflict resolution process.

Here’s what doesn’t work:

  1. Avoiding the conflict or believing that “they’re adults… they’ll work it out.” This assumption is generally wrong and the situation doesn’t get worked through… it just gets worse.
  2. Providing subtle threats or ultimatums to try and elicit their participation.
  3. Transferring the person to another shift or team. The problem still remains unresolved and there is a good chance that there is a great deal of emotion built up related to the issue.  Transferring simply adds to the emotion, deepens distrust and makes for other problems to be solved.