Global HR 7 min

Conflict resolution: Essential tips for HR managers

Written by Barbara Matthews
May 29, 2024
Barbara Matthews


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Managers spend four hours a week on conflict management. If you can learn how to resolve conflicts early on, you can save time and energy. In this article, we'll discuss what HR professionals and managers can do to deal with conflict in the workplace effectively and swiftly. We'll also offer tips for resolving conflicts within a global team.

Why is conflict resolution important?

Conflict resolution isn’t just about keeping the peace. It’s key to supporting your teams so they can be productive and thrive, leading to better relationships, more retention, and a good reputation as an employer. It’s also important for legal reasons. Let’s dive into the main benefits of workplace conflict resolution.

Why is conflict resolution important

1. Stronger relationships

When animosity between team members goes unaddressed, professional and personal relationships suffer. It results in an environment filled with distrust, resentment, and poor communication.

Taking steps to resolve conflicts can be an opportunity to connect. You can also improve communication and build trust along the way. At the other end of a peaceful resolution is a strongly bonded team.

2. Improved team performance

The better team members can collaborate and communicate with each other, the more productive they typically are. Working together under conflict takes valuable energy that can be spent on productivity and innovation instead.

3. Boosted morale

Only 30% of employees feel engaged at their workplace. Conflict can be anything small that makes employees detached from their workplace. With active conflict management, you show employees that you want to provide them with a healthy work environment. Employees can be more motivated and committed to their work environment as a result.

Discrimination and harassment in the workplace have legal consequences. Managers can prevent legal problems by having a clear framework on how to resolve conflict. If there are issues related to disabilities, race, gender identity, or sexual orientation, employers need to take action to stay legally compliant.

5. Reduced turnover

Bad work culture is a major reason why people leave a company. By resolving conflict and creating a harmonious workplace, you can retain top talent. Check if your HR leaders are listening to your employees and addressing their grievances to create a healthy work environment.

6. Better reputation

Companies with a strong reputation are the ones that attract top talent. Companies that keep top performers make sure that its employees are comfortable with their colleagues. Employees are likely to recommend their company to others, building the company's reputation through word of mouth.

5 conflict resolution strategies HR leaders should know

There are five key approaches for addressing conflict in the workplace:

Tips for conflict resolution in a distributed workplace

1. Avoiding

Avoiding conflict means postponing the issue or sidestepping it entirely, hoping conflict will resolve itself with time. It’s most common in scenarios with low stakes. Ignoring conflict is not recommended in the workplace as it is more likely to escalate into bigger problems.

2. Competing

In this strategy, the involved parties all push for their own success, often ignoring the concerns and priorities of the rest of the team.

The competing method often shows up in the workplace when one party asserts their seniority over the other, like a manager over a subordinate.

3. Accommodating

This conflict management style involves one party putting aside their concerns in favor of the other. An example of this in practice would be one team member deciding to work with an unreasonable deadline because they believe doing so will be easier than taking it up with their manager.

4. Compromising

This strategy requires the parties involved to meet each other halfway. In a remote workplace, this could be something like agreeing to run meetings early in the day for one group and late in the day for another so that everyone is included.

5. Collaborating

Here, the parties work together toward a win-win solution without necessarily having to make any trade-offs. For example, a team member can take a call instead of a colleague who would need to join at night to work around time differences.

How do you solve conflict in global teams?

Resolving conflicts can be trickier when team members live in different parts of the world. Check out the below tactics to resolve conflict and bridge together remote team members.

Tips for conflict resolution in a distributed workplace

1. Acknowledge and bridge cultural differences

Start the conflict resolution process by doing your best to bridge any cultural differences that exist between the parties in conflict. These differences may include attitudes toward collaboration, communication styles, and approaches to work-life balance.

56% of employees value diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. Expressing cultural sensitivity shows your commitment to conflict resolution and DEI. It can also help your team members feel comfortable enough to cooperate.

2. Bring in a neutral party

Any suspicion of favoritism could derail the entire conflict resolution process. Get ahead of this issue by appointing a neutral party to oversee conflict resolution.

This person doesn’t necessarily need to be a professional. Just make sure they’re not someone that either party might accuse of being biased. The parties would be more receptive to a mediator that they perceive as impartial, increasing the likelihood of resolving conflict.

3. Find common ground

When people are in conflict, they often believe that they’re opposed on all fronts. Identifying something they can bond over is a quick way to reframe their perspectives positively.

With a global workforce, common ground could include shared goals, achievements, or frustrations.

4. Set expectations

Invite each party to state what they expect to gain out of the conflict resolution process, and use that information to guide you forward.

If you start the process knowing their negotiables, non-negotiables, and where they’re willing to compromise, you’ll save everyone involved a lot of time.

5. Establish a clear process

The conflict resolution process can fall apart in a heartbeat if you don’t set guidelines for how the involved parties are expected to engage.

To keep things from getting out of hand, you’ll need to establish clear rules for things like when and where to meet, ensuring turn-based communication, and implementing solutions. You should also establish penalties for anyone who doesn’t adhere to the process so the parties remain accountable.

6. Identify the root causes

You can prevent repeating occurrences and mitigate the rippling costs of conflict by solving the root cause of an issue. The actual incident is often a symptom of another problem.

When you dig below the surface, you might find some of the following underlying issues:

  • Lack of communication

  • Limited resources

  • Personality clashes

  • Unclear job roles

  • Competing priorities

  • Poor leadership

  • Unrealistic expectations

The benefits of addressing these issues go beyond proactive workplace conflict management — you’ll get the opportunity to improve processes and create a more productive workplace.

7. Encourage spontaneous communication

Team members have fewer conflicts when they communicate regularly outside of scheduled meetings. To encourage spontaneous communication in remote teams, start by creating a general channel for “water cooler” conversations. Your team’s rapport with one another will strengthen as a result, and individual members will be less likely to clash.

Address conflict the right way with Remote

Conflict is inevitable, but managing it can be especially difficult when working with remote teams. An HR Management like Remote can help you simplify your HR process so you have more time to focus on interpersonal relationships with your distributed team.

Contact us today to find out how you can make your team closer than ever.

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