Conflict is inevitable and is a natural aspect of human relationships; however, when that conflict occurs in the workplace, it can be detrimental to the team and the whole organization. Unresolved workplace conflict can have a negative impact on team cohesion, individual mental health, employee productivity, and organization profitability.
Let’s look at five tips managers and business owners can easily use to resolve conflict between employees.
Conflict shouldn’t be allowed to linger. The longer it drags on, the more likely it is that resentment, anger, and intractability will develop and make it more difficult for the conflict to be resolved. The longer a conflict percolates the harder it is to resolve and the more entrenched people become in their positions.
Once a manager knows about a disagreement, he or she should ensure the conflict is addressed in a timely fashion. The first step would be to speak privately to each employee. Find out if they feel safe and able to work it out themselves. If there are any allegations of harassment or bullying, you need to skip this step.
Listen Without an Agenda
Listening and mindfulness build trust. It’s likely that one party will go to the manager for assistance or to let them know about the conflict, and then the manager seeks out the other party to hear their side. A crucial step in addressing conflict in this manner is to remain as neutral as possible and listen without an agenda.
You want to make sure that both parties feel their grievances are heard and their emotions are understood. Listen to what both sides have to say. Ask for clarifications when needed.
Confidentiality is the bedrock of mediated conflict resolution. It is a key part of an agreement to mediate and the prime reason why mediation works. Little disagreements can get bigger and reputation and image concerns are usually a big part of these workplace disputes. Thus, make sure to do everything you can to protect confidentiality. Meet in a place where no one can overhear you. Urge the parties to keep the issues private and discourage idle gossip or water cooler chat.
If the employees are unable to resolve the issue on their own, the manager may need to serve as a mediator. Check if your business or company has an employee handbook with conflict resolution policies. If so, refer to those policies and note when mediation becomes the recommended method.
Finally, document everything. As a manager, you have a responsibility to ensure that conflicts among team members don’t fester or harm the team or the organization. Documenting what the conflict was about, who was involved, and how the conflict was solved is helpful should a similar conflict arise again. You can then look back and refer to previous notes to see what worked and if the same strategy will work again.
Conflict doesn’t have to be detrimental to your company. But it is crucial to deploy appropriate conflict management strategies and to address any conflicts before they lead to even bigger problems.
Ellen F. Kandell is a certified professional mediator and attorney with over 30 years of public and private sector experience. She is one of eight Maryland mediators featured on a statewide demonstration video of good mediation practice. Ellen is certified by the International Mediation Institute. She provides mediation, group facilitation and training to diverse clients in Washington, DC and the US. Get in touch with her via email, and follow her on LinkedIn, and Twitter.