If you work in Human Resources or manage employees then you will no doubt be involved with resolving conflict at your workplace. A common reaction for most people called on to help resolve conflict at work is avoidance. After indulging in some panic or avoidance, I suggest getting curious.
Get curious by asking the right people the right questions.
As a mediator, here are my five steps that you can take to get curious and help to resolve issues that arise in the workplace:
1. Find out or confirm who is involved.
This will typically range from two people to an entire division or team. For simplicity, let’s assume there are two employees not getting along.
2. Talk to each person privately and confidentially.
Ask them both for their perspective on the incident or incidents that have led to the conflict or strain. How do they think they have contributed to the conflict?
3. Ask each person what a good outcome would be for them.
This is important! Do they want a finding of fact (which may require an investigation) or are they open to moving forward if certain changes or acknowledgements are made? More often than not, I find changes and/or acknowledgements will be required from both participants.
4. Discuss what they think the other person’s perspective is.
Really try to have them put themselves in the other person’s shoes. Perhaps this individual has health issues or stress at home. Note, you are not divulging any confidential information you may have but rather helping the other person to get curious and shift to a broader perspective of the situation. While someone’s circumstance does not condone poor behaviour, it can help another party to understand a situation differently.
5. Task them with describing what options they see to move forward with the other person.
If they are stuck some options you could suggest are: setting up a meeting, lunch, a facilitated conversation or mediation. If the participants do decide to meet together remind them to come with a willingness to listen and understand things differently.
As you gather this information the next steps will be revealed. You don’t need to know all the answers when you are presented with a problem. While these steps will not resolve every issue they can help in a lot of circumstances. Giving people the opportunity to be heard and understood is powerful.
This post is part of Mediate BC’s WorkPeace series: mediator tips for addressing workplace conflict effectively.