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Conflict Management and Negotiations in the Workplace

Sustained workplace conflict can become disruptive to productivity and lead to excessive employee turnover. Managers and human resources professionals need to become proficient at crisis management, and part of crisis management is workplace conflict negotiation. Understanding the different ways that workplace conflict can develop will become a helpful tool in understanding the best ways to approach conflict negotiation.

Clarification of Guidelines

Sometimes all a workplace conflict situation needs is clarification of company policy or employee job duties. For example, if two employees begin disputing responsibility over performing a specific job duty, then the situation requires a clarification of each set of job tasks by management. Negotiating an end to a conflict caused by misinterpretation of policies or duties is an opportunity for the company to create clearer guidelines that prevent these sorts of conflicts in the future. When negotiating the clarification of guidelines, it is important to have the departmental manager, the employees involved in the conflict and a human resources representative on hand so that the clarifications through negotiation become part of company job duties.
Conflicts can erupt in the workplace as a result of an excessive workload causing stress on the staff. Management needs to adopt a proactive negotiation approach when it comes to elevated work levels. This is where anticipation in company planning of annual peaks in production, such as holidays, or rise in customer demand due to the release of a new product is critical. Prepare employees for the rise in workload by offering overtime or staggering shifts to help deal with employee stress. If the workload situation is not dealt with in advance, then conflict negotiations become a matter of finding solutions to ease the extra work burden the staff feels. Additional employee breaks or bringing in part-time temporary staff may help to solve the workplace conflict.

Employee Input

Employees need to feel involved in the success of the company or workplace conflict can arise. When the staff feels alienated by the management team because management is not allowing employee input into company decisions, then the employees will begin to exhibit insubordinate behavior. Negotiating with a staff that feels alienated is a sensitive process. The company wants to avoid telling the staff to get back to work and delivering instructions without seeking input from employees. A staff that is continually told what to do even after it has given signs that it is unhappy will escalate the conflict with management. The management teams need to set up ways for employees to give input, such as having managers adopt an “open door” policy or putting an employee suggestion box in the break room and using it.

Information Exchange

People communicate in different ways. Some people require very little information to understand a subject, while others need more information and a clearer explanation in order to gather meaning. When employees with different ways of conveying and processing information try to communicate in the workplace, there can sometimes be a conflict. Negotiating a misunderstanding of information can be as simple as letting each side state its position, and then the manager acts as a facilitator who assists each side in gaining understanding. Before bringing the parties together to solve this sort of conflict, the manager should spend time discussing the issue with each party individually to make sure that when an understanding is made, that understanding will not spark another conflict.

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