Unresolved or poorly managed conflict is a challenge that many teams wrestle with. Here are some helpful tips to move forward after a disagreement.

Charmaine Hammond is a Conflict Resolution and Workplace Consultant with MyWorkplaceHealth. She has developed hundreds of Conflict Resolution and Training programs for corporations, government, educational institutions and associations. As a consultant she also worked with her corporate clients on developing policies and procedures around conflict management and workplace violence prevention. Charmaine turns communication breakdowns into communication breakthroughs and helps teams work better together!

Unresolved or poorly managed conflict is a challenge that many teams wrestle with. Often when conflict is discussed in teams it’s addressed but not resolved, and it may be months or even years later when the same issues resurface. We often see the resurfacing of conflict at group or team meetings.

Sentiments such as: “I can’t believe this issue continues to take up time and energy at our staff meetings” or “I thought we resolved this issue two years ago; this is the third time it has been addressed since then” are common. Many leaders have found themselves in a similar situation – revisiting old issues time and time again. In fact, many will describe issues as being “same old conflicts, just different people.”

Why Are Conflicts Often Not Resolved?

One of the challenges with the resolution of workplace conflicts is that to ensure the agreements and resolution stick, it requires attitude and behavior changes from those involved in the resolution conversations. Often people are just so relieved to have the conflict and its associated stress addressed they do not discuss HOW to make the agreement work and WHAT they will do if things fall off the tracks.

The Importance of Follow-up

Often when an issue is resolved, there is a critical piece missing – follow up. Follow up to ensure people involved understand:

  • What the outcome/agreement is
  • What’s required to make this work
  • How involved parties will contribute to making the agreement work
  • To check in a few weeks afterwards to assess how the agreement/outcome is working.

This will alert you to issues that may be surfacing.

Use a Decision Tracker

Track all decisions in staff meeting minutes, and use a Decision Tracker. A Decision Tracker is a chart that simply outlines the date, the decision that was made (clearly spelled out), the rationale for the decision, messaging to the organization, and how it will be monitored. This is a quick and easy reference tool for leaders. Some final tips:

  • Address issues quickly. Don’t let them fester and build in intensity. Addressing issues quickly will help minimize rumours, gossip and inaccurate information.
  • Ask questions. If old issues continue to surface query WHY the issue is on the table again.
  • Address 1:1 first, instead of raising the issue at a team meeting. If it is one particular staff that has a pattern of raising old issues or not letting go when issues are resolved, this is a great opportunity for feedback, coaching and resetting expectations.

When a conversation is concluded, it can be helpful to have the people involved summarize their understanding of the outcome and next steps. This creates a feeling of closure. When people are clear the issue has been dealt with, it is easier to move forward and not have past issues clouding current day conversations.

To learn more about the conflict resolution training Charmaine offers or about other MyWorkplaceHealth service offerings, get in touch!