Conflict Resolution in Human Resources: Steps & Styles

Instructor: Brianna Whiting

Brianna has a masters of education in educational leadership, a DBA business management, and a BS in animal science.

In this lesson we will learn about conflict resolution. We will study the many steps and styles that are often used in the process. When the lesson concludes, you can test your knowledge.

A Foundation for Conflict Resolution

Do you remember fighting with your siblings, cousins, or friends when you were a kid? Was there a favorite toy you all had to play with but refused to share? While a parent, teacher, or another adult often solves our conflicts when we are children, there is a special department designated to aid in conflict when we become working adults. That department is the Human Resources (HR) department.

In this lesson we will learn the steps a human resource department may take to help with conflict resolution, as well as the many styles that employees may follow during that process.

Basic Definitions

Before we explore the steps in conflict resolution, let's take a moment to define a critical term. Conflict is a struggle or disagreement between at least two people over a difference in opinions or goals. When applied to a business environment, a conflict can be a fight between co-workers over resources used, project approaches, schedules, etc.

Conflicts are disruptive for a workplace, so quickly resolving them is key to a positive, healthy environment. Conflict resolution is the process of finding a solution to that conflict.

The Steps in Conflict Resolution

So you may be asking yourself, how does the HR department help with conflicts? How does it take a hostile situation and find a beneficial solution that allows employees to continue working together? Let's say you're the head of HR and two employees have asked for your assistance in resolving a conflict. The following steps outline the process of many HR departments in conflict resolution.

1. Create a Healthy Environment Ultimately, avoiding a conflict altogether is the best scenario. While that is not always possible, creating an environment that can solve a conflict once it occurs is key. For example, let it be known that everyone will be treated with respect. Also, encourage those involved to be open and honest with their opinions and choices by not intimidating them to feel or act a certain way.

2. Identify the Problem Obviously a conflict means that there is a problem, so being able to correctly identify it is important. This means digging through all the layers of conflict and points of view to figure out exactly why everyone is upset. It is important to point out that in order for conflict resolution to work, everyone involved needs to agree on what the problem is.

3. Listen Effectively Once the problem is identified, you need to listen to what both sides have to say about the problem. What has everyone so upset? What are their opinions? Listening will enable you to learn why the conflicted situation is a problem, how it started, and how each side would like it resolved.

4. Guide Self-Resolution In a perfect case, once the problem has been identified, everyone would be able to work it out together without further intervention from the HR department. While not always possible, this type of solution is a great way for the employees to build teamwork, mutual respect, and a foundation for repairing their relationship.

5. Consider Solutions Ultimately a solution needs to be found. If the two sides cannot resolve the conflict themselves, you, as head of HR, need to use your problem solving skills to come up with a solution. Often this involves input from both sides and a little creativity.

6. Decide on a Solution Once both sides have been heard, and brainstorming has concluded, it is time to make a final decision. Look at the solutions you have considered and decide on the one that will best resolve the problem. Then notify each side about the chosen solution.

The Styles of Conflict Resolution

In this section we will look at some styles of conflict resolution. Keep in mind that not all styles work for every situation. Rather, based on the circumstances, the style chosen should help to resolve the problem efficiently. Now, let's say you are an employee trying to resolve a conflict with a coworker.

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