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There are many methods to resolve conflict and workplace harassment, but one of the most effective combines a practical step-by-step method with storytelling. When training or coaching employees how to achieve conflict resolution in the workplace, telling realistic stories of conflicts at work is a great way to engage their attention and emotions. Plus, stories provide a relatable model of how to act (or not to act).

Consider using a story like this to teach conflict resolution in the workplace:

Recently, in a local hospital, certain portable medical devices used every day by the nurses were in short supply. As nurse Farida unsuccessfully scours her floor for a spare vital signs machine for her patient, she sees nurse Sara tucking one into a closet while she thinks no one is looking. Farida is angry, storms after Sara and accuses her of “hoarding” the machines. Sara yells back - in a busy patient hallway - that she’s not hoarding anything and to back off.

Later, after Farida has had time to cool off and think about how to approach Sara, they sit down to talk in private. Farida opens the conversation with “I feel bad about our argument earlier, and it would really mean a lot to me if we could work together to resolve our differences, Sara.” Sara nods and listens, skeptically, but respectfully. Farida continues that it made her feel angry when she saw Sara putting away the vital signs machine earlier because “we’re all supposed to share them.” She explains that when she gets upset like that, she loses focus and isn’t doing her best job with her patients.

Sara then explains that she tucked the machine away because she hates taking vitals by hand when machines aren’t available.  Farida commiserates with, “You and me both.  We all do. That’s why it’s important to share them.” Sara slowly nods, agrees, and promises not to do it again

While this story takes place in healthcare, employees in any industry can relate to a situation where conflict erupts from a fairly petty issue. And whether conflict stems from a small issue, workplace harassment, or another cause, the steps to resolve it are the same, and were demonstrated by Farida and Sara in our story.

Conflict Resolution in the Workplace, Step-by-Step

  1. First, clarify the issue - consider what caused the issue, how you’re feeling, and whether you may have contributed to the problem. Also, consider how you would want to be approached if you were the other person.
  2. Next, address the issue with the other person - being careful not to attack, but to ask for the other person’s help solving a problem.
  3. Then, describe the issue - what happened, how it made you feel, and how it impacts you or the team. Listen to the other person’s side of the story without interrupting.
  4. Then, discuss how you can resolve the issue together - identify each other’s needs, explore win-win solutions, and agree on a course of action.

The What To Do When Conflict Happens training video features 4 realistic scenarios of workplace conflict, plus it teaches the “C.A.L.M.” method for conflict resolution in the workplace.

We also recommend:
Right/Wrong to WIN/WIN - for peer-to-peer conflicts
The Unifed Team - for management training