Envision you are about to travel on a journey from a place of conflict to a place called resolution. As with any journey, there should be steps taken to ensure you will be as prepared as possible.
First, you must check out the vehicle you are going to use on your journey, to ensure it is in optimal operating condition. On the road to resolution, that vehicle is you! Therefore, it is necessary to do some introspection to see if there are any obstacles or personal matters that might impair your perceptions or judgment regarding a conflict(s). These are things that could impede your ability to reach your resolution destination successfully and peacefully. Ronald Reagan once said “Peace is not absence of conflict. It is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
Next, it may be worthy to create a roadmap outlining the route you will take. You might consider the shortest and most direct route, most cost-effective route, and the route that would allow you to arrive at your destination with the least amount of wear and tear physically and emotionally. The most direct routes to resolving a work-related conflict is to first attempt to address it in a non-adversarial manner at the lowest level with the person or group you are having the concern with. If that does not work, consider elevating the issue to your chain-of-command. Keep in mind on occasion you could encounter detours or roadblocks that may require you to consider another route.
As with any road trip, you may also want to consider which routes provide pit stops should you require information, assistance, or some type of support. If you cannot resolve a conflict at its earliest stage and at the lowest possible level, there are other avenues to help address your concerns. These avenues include sources like alternative dispute resolution (ADR) via your agency or local ADR champion, local bargaining unions via the negotiated grievance procedure; civilian personnel or human resources offices via the administrative grievance procedure; equal employment opportunity via the civilian complaint processes. You may also consider contacting your employee assistance programs (EAP), a conflict coach, or others you may feel comfortable communicating with.
When traveling it is always a good idea to have some tools in the event of an emergency. Here are some to help create the roadmap to success for navigating the conflict highway. Whenever possible begin by talking in a non-adversarial tone with the person(s) involved in the concern, focus on the events and behaviors, be sure to listen carefully before responding, identify any points of disagreement as well as agreement, discuss areas of conflict that are most important to all concerned to resolve, collaboratively develop a plan to address the areas of conflict focusing on moving forward positively and proactively, ensure you follow-through on your part of the plan, and build upon any success, highlight progress and willingness to collaborate, and finally remember the only thing we as individuals can control is how we act and react to any conflict situation we are faced with.
It is critically important to respect one another’s thoughts and if you reflect about it this way: 4 + 4 = 8, but so does 5 + 3. Remember, the way you do something isn’t always the only way to do it. Always be sure to value and respect other people’s views, thoughts, and opinions and know it may be different than yours and that is OK! Make it a point to think outside the box, be open minded, and flexible. Understand most of the time there is more than one way to accomplish a goal or to get to an end state. Those are a few things you can do to help make the conflict resolution journey a more comfortable ride.
Once the proper steps have been taken to prepare you for your journey, you are well on your way to successfully arriving at a mutual satisfactory conflict resolution. When unpredictable things occur which they often do, remember that conflict, like stress, can be an unavoidable fact of life. However, I believe William James said it best when he said: “Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” As a final thought while your cruising down the conflict resolution highway remember If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, make the journey together!