Conflict happens in the workplace, whether we like it or not. Some people aren’t bothered by it, even drawn to it; others avoid it at all costs. Regardless of whether you’re drawn to it or avoid it, conflict resolution is one of the necessary customer service skills for career success in IT or any other field.
Entire courses have been developed on conflict and resolution, books have been written on the subject, and experts have studied the process of conflict resolution for years. In this post, you’ll learn six basic techniques to help resolve common workplace conflicts.
Top IT Customer Service Skills for Conflict and Resolution
Number One: Assume good intent.
Most people are coming from a place of good intent. If you’re involved in a conflict, start by assuming the other person wants a good outcome and doesn’t want to hurt anyone in the process. Assuming good intent is just generally a good customer service skill. If you know for a fact that the other person doesn’t have good intentions, you have other issues than conflict resolution to deal with. Consider options for dealing with difficult people.
Number Two: Try to get the conflict to a warm position.
A hot conflict is one where the parties to the conflict are really angry, possibly yelling at each other, and maybe even at the risk of a physical confrontation. A cold conflict is an exact opposite where the parties aren’t speaking to each other. See if there’s a way to get it to a warm state where tempers aren’t flaring and they’re willing to talk.
Number Three: Separate the person from the problem.
This is common advice, but it’s often easier said than done. Here are ways you can separate the person from the problem:
Think long-term, another good customer service skill. When you take a long-term view of any situation, you tend to think differently than when you think short-term. Among the differences are thinking about mutual benefit and collaboration.
Avoid name-calling and thinking of the other person as an enemy. Instead, think of the other person as a collaborator working with you to resolve issues to each other’s benefit.
Use empathy. Think about how you would feel if you were in the other person’s position with a similar set of past experiences and a similar view of the world.
Number Four: Meet on neutral ground.
Pick a restaurant or a coffee shop to meet. Consider a neutral workspace. Maybe even meet at a hotel meeting room. Remember, this is not about one person dominating the other, it’s about resolving conflict to each other’s benefit. If the conflict is between two people in the same company, avoid having the parties go to one person’s office. Instead, consider a neutral conference room.
Number Five: Brainstorm.
Brainstorm for possible solutions. This goes back to collaboration and is another key customer service skill. Remember, in brainstorming you simply list ideas, in this case possible solutions. When you brainstorm, remember to encourage and allow everyone to offer solutions and freely discuss them, allow individuals to talk without interruption, encourage the parties to question like a student (as opposed to a prosecutor) to gain a deeper understanding of the other person’s position, and write down ideas without regard to whether they’re feasible or not. Don’t criticize other ideas without also offering constructive discussion as to their pros and cons, and allow all parties to discuss their thoughts openly. Insist on civility between the parties.
Number Six: Agreement
List all possible solutions that both parties can agree on. Look for common ground. In a perfect situation, you will produce a collaborative win-win outcome. Sometimes that’s not possible. In those times, look for a compromise solution that everyone will agree to. Ask for an explicit commitment to the agreed-upon solution from all parties.
Conflict in the workplace doesn’t have to create insurmountable hurdles. When managed well, conflict can produce positive outcomes for teams and individuals. That’s why conflict management is an important customer service skill Keys to successful conflict management include assuming good intent, fostering a collaborative approach, and focusing on the desired outcome.
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