Anyone who has ever spent at least a couple of months in some kind of office environment knows this: Conflicts among employees are as common as they are unavoidable. Think about it: You earn your daily bread by working at least 40 hours a week in the company of different,unrelated people. Add a dose of stress and tension,even a small one, to the mixture, and it’s only a matter of time before a workplace dispute breaks out.
Be that as it may, there’s no reason to sulk over this deeply inherent part of human nature. It’s only normal. People’s opinions, expectations, interests and behaviours differ and will therefore occasionally clash. In a way, arising conflicts can even be a good indication, as it means employees are caring about the company and their jobs – is there anything worse in the workplace than a bunch of apathetic and indifferent deadbeats?
If you’re the owner or manager who has to restore harmony between the nettled parties – we’re not going to lie, the role of office peacemaker is not a particularly thankful one. Alas, heavy is the head who wears the entrepreneurial crown! Nonetheless, mediating conflicts that have occurred in your company is not something you should delegate or sweep under the rug. Quite the opposite, embrace it and face it head-on!
Here are some essential tips on how to moderate conflict in the workplace:
- Set clear rules for what is acceptable and what isn’t.
Straightforward guidelines on what is tolerated in the workplace is a quintessential step of good employee management. Not only is it going to be easier to resolve a disagreement if you set clear no-no’s from the start, but this move will also do wonders for avoiding conflict in the first place and save you a lot of trouble.
2. Try to understand the issue from all sides.
“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence”, said Indian author and philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti. With that thought in mind, try to put yourself in the position of the other – how would you react if you were them? Managing a team also means you cannot play favourites, not when mitigating conflict, not ever. When you’re bringing two or more employees to come to terms with each other, you have to rise above the situation and your own preconceived notions of who is right, and who is wrong.
The only way to nail the previous point is by being attentive and pricking up your ears. In communication, an astounding amount of exchanged information is missed, wrongly interpreted or misunderstood, mostly due to people not paying attention to what the other person is talking about. Well, aren’t you tired of these whispers? We all love to hear the sound of our voices, but there is little to learn from our own soliloquies, especially in the workplace.
4. Communicate openly and tactfully.
While we always encourage frank and transparent communication, this doesn’t mean you or your employees get to be crass and crude. A little tact goes a long way: Engage some finesse and thoughtfulness in the process, and people will not feel threatened nor have the need to act defensive.
5. Don’t blame others or point fingers.
In every dispute resolution, it’s of utmost importance you focus on the problem, not the person (even if the person itself is the problem). Try to be constructive and depersonalise the issue at matter: Playing a blame game will only drive everyone away from resolving the conflict.
6. Prioritise values.
Confusion-driven conflicts occur more often than you think. For a more serene atmosphere in the office, it’s important everyone is on the same page when it comes to business priorities and division of responsibilities. “Twenty-nine percent of the respondents from the AtTask study said they believed conflicting priorities are the # 1 source of workplace conflict. Additionally, 64 percent of the respondents cited too an abundance of confusion about who’s supposed to be doing which specific tasks or duties.”, reports The Entrepreneur.
7. Come up with a plan to resolve the issue.
After you have gathered all key pieces of information to get a good grasp of the problem, draft a plan that will help you work it through. Are you going to talk to each of the parties separately, or confront them right from the beginning? Do you need to draft any agreements? How are you going to follow up on the dispute? Make sure you have the answers to these questions before you bring any hasty decisions.
8. Understand when the dispute is beyond saving.
Sadly, not every battle can be won, nor can every conflict be resolved in the end. If you’ve exhausted all methods of mediating a conflict, but see little to no results, it’s time you stopped kicking a dead horse. Indeed, not everyone can work together in harmony. It’s up to you to figure out when, and in what way, to move on.