How do I resolve conflict between colleagues?
There's no doubt that in any group setting, sooner or later , you will encounter conflict. As a director, manager or supervisor, mediating in conflict is a challenge akin to tightrope walking. But it's a challenge that comes with the territory.
So, what's the received wisdom in managing conflict successfully? How do you become the Henry Kissinger of HR? Here are our top tips.
- Spot conflict early on – If you think there's trouble brewing between your staff confront reality d on't just hope it will go away. An unresolved conflict will fester and could grow into something bigger.
- This of the wider issue – Always remember it's not just the antagonists who are affected. Everyone in their vicinity will be affected by the stress. Act fast before people choose sides and your team or organisation is divided.
- Create the environment – ‘Having it out' in the middle of the office will not work. Meeting behind closed doors allows everyone involved to have the chance to air and share their views in a calm and considered way. Before anyone says anything though, have them understand and agree that the sole purpose of the meeting is to resolve the conflict.
- Get together – Always meet the antagonists together. Allow each to summarise the situation from their viewpoint, without being interrupted. Reinforce the fact that this can only be resolved through discussion and negotiation.
- Be assertive – Don't be sympathetic or skirt around the issue. On the other hand, avoid taking an aggressive tone. Listen with empathy and objectivity. Make it clear you will not take sides.
- Get the facts – Ask questions to clarify and understand exactly where the underlying problem is. Identify the major issues concisely and state how you see this affecting individual performance, disrupting customer care and damaging client relations. Focus exclusively on work issues and leave individual personalities aside.
- Agree the problem together – Build consensus on your assessment of the problem before searching for a solution. Look for common ground between antagonists. Your clarification alone may end the conflict at this point . If not, it is vital you agree on a common perception of the issue.
- Personality vs. process – It may become clear the conflict has arisen more as a tension between conflicting personalities, rather than because of a specific work issue. Make it very clear; while i t is reasonable to disagree over work issues, it is unprofessional and unacceptable to allow personality conflicts to affect the workplace. A useful exercise to elicit further understanding and resolution is to ask each party to identify what the other employee can stop, start, do more, or do less of.
- Explore potential solutions – Identify and discuss potential resolutions. I f one party feels they've won, the other may still remain disgruntled, so concentrate your efforts on building a solution positive to both. Insist that both sides input in solution generation and e nsure each suggests what he or she personally might do to resolve the conflict.
- Agree a solution – Once the potential solutions have been discussed, decide on the solution that best meets the needs of both parties and your organisation. Write this up, with agreed-upon actions clearly stated. Decide on how you will collectively measure success. Monitor progress regularly and positively reinforce success with verbal praise.
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