Two of my co-workers once had a difference of opinion that developed into an argument, and after several minutes, the conflict almost evolved into a full-blown fistfight. Both of them were furious at the other, and we had to restrain them before things got really ugly.
After we managed to cool everything down, we asked them what they were arguing about, because even though we were all right there in the office with them, we could not understand most of what they were yelling at each other. As soon as they started to try to explain it to us, they began shouting again, and our supervisor told them they were going to have to report to human resources for a workplace conflict resolution session.
I had no idea that our company even offered such a thing, but evidently, workplace conflict resolution is something that many companies take very seriously, and as our supervisor told the rest of us, it is really effective if both employees are truly committed to to resolving their issues.
They went to the session on workplace conflict resolution and acted the next day as though they were the best of friends. It was remarkable to me, and many of us looked around at each other wondering if these were the same to guys that looked like they wanted to kill each other the day before.
I talked to one of them and asked him if it was the session that had resolved the problem, and he said that was pretty much the case. He told me that in the session, they discussed ways to better handle situations in which a conflict could arise, and both of them learned how to communicate more effectively.
He added that learning about workplace conflict resolution made both of them realize that most conflicts in the workplace arise because of a miscommunication, and that if you can just talk it out and try to understand where the other person is coming from, you can usually arrive at an agreement and maintain harmony.
A few months later, an argument broke out between two different co-workers. It was not nearly to the same degree as the first one, but they were both very upset. They eventually had to go to a workplace conflict resolution session as well, and the rest of us thought everything would be fine.
This time, however, they never spoke to each other after they went, and a few weeks later, one of them ended up quitting.
What our supervisor had told us about workplace conflict resolution was apparently true. It certainly can be very helpful, restoring friendships and a sense of peace and harmony to the office, but everybody involved has to be willing to make it work and keep an open mind.