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Three tips for navigating workplace differences of opinion

How to help employees resolve conflicts, address differences and create more productive workplace relationships


Workplaces will always encounter differences of opinion – whether it involves varied solutions about how to tackle a challenging project, or two people who just can’t seem to see eye to eye on anything, professionally or personally. As companies evolve, change and grow, employers may encounter more of these difficult conversations or situations among co-workers. Here are three for business leaders to effectively help employees resolve conflicts, address differences of opinion and create more productive workplace relationships:

Work together and acknowledge differing opinions. A first step in reaching a resolution is to recommend employees talk through issues and determine what the next step will be in setting aside differences. Encourage employees to keep an open mind and sincerely acknowledge the viewpoint of the opposing employee. This is an important step in building, or potentially rebuilding, the workplace relationship.

Have respect and empathy.  Fostering an environment of respect is a crucial foundation when helping employees navigate difficult discussions with a co-worker. While affording the other person respect doesn’t guarantee agreement or an immediate resolution, it does serve to cultivate collaboration, creativity and a connection between disagreeing co-workers. By listening to the other person’s perspective, employees can reframe the conversation to focus on understanding alternative views. Encourage employees to take the time to understand the disagreement from their coworker’s position. This will help demonstrate a renewed level of commitment to the overall relationship.

Hold parties accountable. After guiding employees through this process, you’ll reach the “now what” question. Help them to determine an outcome that both parties agree on. Then, be sure to hold both parties accountable to that resolution.

Polarizing, “either/or” thinking that has overtaken some workplaces can create a hostile environment that could hinder valuable resources such as time, money and energy. In order to keep your company running smoothly and maintain safe surroundings for your employees, it’s the employer’s duty to monitor and guide any employee disagreements and aid in creating a productive resolution. 

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