Training and Development

How To Prevent, Address, and Resolve Interdepartmental Conflict

Published on
November 28, 2023
Karen Benz
Director of Coaching
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Resolving interdepartmental conflicts in a workplace is essential for maintaining a productive and harmonious work environment. Before we talk about resolving conflict, let’s talk about preventing conflict!

To prevent conflict when working cross-functionally, it’s a good idea to follow “The Four Agreements” -- the work of Don Miguel Ruiz -- which has as principles these 4 agreements:  

“Be impeccable with your word” 
“Do not take anything personally” 
“Do not make assumptions” 
“Always do your best” 

Being intentional about these 4 agreements can keep you focused on the work and on building relationships with your co-workers. Starting from a place of commonality can also guard against interdepartmental conflict. What are you shared values?  What is your shared purpose?  Revisiting these questions can unite teams towards a common goal.  

Effective Strategies for Conflict Prevention, Addressing, and Resolution:

  • Open Communication:  Encourage open and honest communication between departments. Create a culture where employees feel comfortable and safe discussing their concerns.
  • Identify the Root Causes:  Get to the bottom of the conflict by identifying the underlying issues. This might involve talking to the individuals involved, their supervisors, or even conducting surveys.
  • Mediation:  Sometimes, it's necessary to bring in a neutral third party to mediate the conflict. This could be a supervisor, HR professional, or an external mediator.
  • Establish Clear Protocols and Procedures:  Ensure that there are clear protocols and procedures in place for interdepartmental collaboration and conflict resolution. This can prevent conflicts from escalating.
  • Team Building:  Organize team-building activities that involve members from different departments. This can help build relationships and foster understanding.
  • Training and Development:  Provide training and development opportunities for employees to improve their interpersonal and communication skills. This can help prevent conflicts from arising in the first place.
  • Set Common Goals:  Establish common goals and objectives that require collaboration between departments. When everyone has a shared purpose, it can reduce conflicts.
  • Feedback Mechanisms:  Create feedback mechanisms for employees to voice their concerns and suggestions for improvement. This can help address issues before they become conflicts.
  • Document Everything:  Keep records of discussions, agreements, and resolutions. This helps to ensure accountability and provides a reference for future conflicts.
  • Leadership Involvement:  Senior leadership should be aware of interdepartmental conflicts and actively support efforts to resolve them. Their involvement can lend credibility to the resolution process.
  • Conflict Resolution Training:  Train supervisors and managers in conflict resolution techniques. They should be equipped to address conflicts as they arise.
  • Policy Review:  Periodically review company policies and procedures to ensure they don't inadvertently contribute to conflicts. Adjust policies as needed.
  • Incentives for Collaboration:  Consider offering incentives for collaboration and teamwork. This can motivate employees to work together more effectively.
  • Follow-Up:  After a conflict has been resolved, it's important to follow up to ensure that the resolution is working and that the conflict doesn't resurface.
  • Seek Continuous Improvement:  Interdepartmental conflicts may be indicative of broader organizational issues. Continuously evaluate and improve your organization's culture and processes to minimize conflicts.

Remember that not all conflicts can be completely eliminated, but by following these steps, you can manage and reduce interdepartmental conflicts, creating a more harmonious and productive workplace.

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