Using shared understanding to resolving workplace conflict

by Winnie Onyekwere

Resolution is understanding the viewpoints of all of the parties in a conflict.

During a workplace meeting where a disagreement occurs between colleagues, a leader or manager should take responsibility for any conflict resolution and act as a mediator, to encourage a positive work environment and working relationships, through cooperative & considerate communication. Otherwise known as Teamwork

Two mistakes to avoid during mediation include:

  • Putting energy into attempting to persuade, convince or coercing a party to accept their own point of view. This will only cause you to dichotomise, oversimplify and distort the truth. As a result, you fail to pay attention to the complexities of the situation and the valid points that others have to say. No matter what is said, it is important to be open and non-judgemental.
  • Moving too quickly to resolve the problem. It’s tempting to rush into looking for solutions before you’ve really had a good understanding of the problem from everyone’s point of view.

You should agree to discuss the situation in a shared pool of understanding. Throughout the meeting ask the parties to the conflict to provide their opinions. Let them describe how they feel about the situation. Make sure that everyone is being heard carefully and ask clarifying questions related to the conflict.

There are two purposes of creating a pool of understanding. The first is to bring to the surface the assumptions and perceptions of all the parties involved. Secondly, is to search for common ground. Many times when you dig a little deeper, finding common ground immediately changes the circumstance and parties no longer feel at odds. There will be something that they agree upon, from there, they’re more likely to relax, let their guards down and become more open to listening to each other. 

Remember, they won’t agree on everything, that’s expected and that’s life. It’s about building a pool of shared understanding to aid a leader or manager to gain a more complete view of what’s going on and help to discuss possible outcomes, allowing you to take the best possible actions.