Conflict is a common problem we might experience in our organizations and working environments. This state of discord can be the result of perceived or actual opposition of interests, values, and/or needs between employees or between employees and managers.
Conflicts can arise in different forms—sometimes departmental, sometimes managerial—but most times, interpersonal conflicts or conflicts between employees have been recorded the most in various organizations. So this article will focus on how to mediate and resolve a conflict between employees in your workplace.
But first, let’s look at why conflict resolution is so important:
1. It strengthens the bond among employees: Once a conflict is resolved, it will reduce the stress and tension between the employees, making them more comfortable. The ultimate impact is strengthening the bond between your employees, which, in turn, can have a positive effect on the company’s revenue.
2. It has an impact in our personal lives: If not resolved, conflicts lead to fights, which create disrespect and enmity between employees. However, if a conflict is resolved as early as possible, it can have a positive effect on employees’ personal lives, too.
3. It finds a middle ground and can help to solve problems around idea implementation: When there is a conflict between your employees, chances are that any idea implementation—no matter how great it could turn out to be—will die down the line due to employee conflicts. If you find a way to mediate and then resolve any issues that arise between your employees, chances are that idea sharing and implementation will improve significantly.
While it might seem easy to mediate and resolve conflicts between employees, various steps should be followed to achieve it. Here are five simple steps to mediate conflicts between employees:
STEP1: Stay calm and meet the antagonists together. Let each of them explain their point of view without interruption. This lets all the parties air out their disagreement in detail. Intervene if any of the parties try to attack the other when they are summarizing their side of story.
STEP 2: Ask how each of them would want the issue resolved. This will give you a dimension of how they want their differences resolved. You can let them give suggestions on what they think should be done. Three or so suggestions should be fine. For example, “I would like Brian to finish filling the data on time so I analyze it on time.”
STEP 3: Own the responsibility or take the blame as needed. As a manager or supervisor, you must avoid taking sides and should find a way to take responsibility for the conflict in terms of the work environment or lack of resources, etc. Your explanation should answer the question, “What work situations are causing these parties to have differences?” If the situation needs more exploration, you can use Stephen Covey’s process in which you ask each party to explain what the other can do less of, more of, stop, and or even start.
STEP 4: Ask the employees to discuss and commit to change where necessary. The two parties should commit to notice any improvements they have made, no matter how small the changes are.
Additionally, they should commit to treating each other with respect and dignity from that time onward. Advise them that it is fine to have reasonable disagreements over plans and issues, but it is not allowed to get so personal that it has an effect at the workplace.
STEP 5: Ask for and give assurance. Let them assure you that you will see a positive change and be on the lookout to see any improvements going forward. During this time, you also can assure the two parties that you believe in their ability to change, to resolve differences, and to keep working hard on their successful contributions in the organization. You also can set a certain time for when you will review any progress made.
To avoid future conflicts:
- Positively encourage: Be positive and give feedback to your employees about the work they do to make all of them feel valued.
- Use humor: Promoting humor at work is one of the ways that can help prevent future conflicts. You can do that by allowing your employees to have a little fun at work.
- Hone awareness: Be aware of instances that are bound to create conflicts. If you know your workplace well, you will not need to mediate conflicts every time. You will always be aware of what breeds conflicts and can try to prevent situations from arising.
- Seek advice: Seeking advice from someone else who might know better is always the best option. If they have enough experience, they will help you see things in differently, and that can help you resolve future conflicts.
- Always be one step ahead: This means teaching your employees how to handle tense situations and pressure in general. This helps avoid conflicts arising altogether. Some of the things you can teach are choosing the right words, using the right tone, active listening, and generally good work ethics.
Mediating conflict between employees in a workplace can sometimes be tough for you as a manager or supervisor. However, it is your responsibility to ensure peace and harmony in your workplace. That means your willingness to step in between employees and help will set a platform for your success.
Claudio Miguel is a serial entrepreneur; growth advisor to startups; and founder of Outbound.net, which provides marketing and growth hacking for startups and brands.