staff conflict management

About the author : Valerie Dansereau

There’s not much of a possibility that workplace disagreements won’t ever happen. Minor disagreements may come and go, but occasionally a conflict between coworkers can get worse instead of better. When things start to escalate, staff conflict management becomes top priority. As conflict intensifies, the work environment becomes toxic for the entire staff and productivity comes to a halt. De-escalation and mediation are important skills for bringing things under control.

Acting as a Mediator

Staff conflict management starts with arranging a private meeting with the parties in conflict. Acting as mediator, you set ground rules for the discussion. One of the most important rules is that the parties in conflict aren’t allowed to interrupt each other, which gives both of them a chance to feel heard. Emotional outbursts are also unacceptable.

Both parties are to be given a chance to express their side of the problem without hostility and without placing blame. Both must agree to be respectful of each other and to show this by using a respectful choice of words, body language and tone.

Ask each to talk about when the problem started and what has caused them to be unable to work things out. Sometimes the problem is a simple misunderstanding based on a breakdown in communication. One may have misinterpreted something that was said or done by the other one. Other times, the problem is something that started small and snowballed into something much bigger.

The Importance of Listening in Staff Conflict Management

Listening is a key part of de-escalating and mediating conflict. Disputes between coworkers are often related to problems communicating, and the root of difficulty communicating is often a failure of those in conflict to listen to each other. They both may have become closed-minded about the thoughts or opinions of the other without actually taking the time to hear each other’s perspectives.

Practice active listening. Nod or smile where appropriate to communicate that you’re listening. It can be helpful to take notes when each of those in conflict is speaking and repeat back to them what you’ve heard. This gives them a chance to clarify if there have been any misunderstandings.

Another approach is to encourage those who are involved in the conflict to repeat back to each other what they’ve heard. This ensures that both are listening to the other which can help reopen lines of communication.

De-Escalating Conflict

In your role as mediator, it’s imperative that you don’t choose sides and don’t do or say anything to imply that you are. Keep control of your own emotions and project a calm demeanor.

Sometimes staff members in conflict may benefit from being removed from the office environment to work through the problem. Consider meeting with those in conflict at a location outside work. A casual setting may help to make everyone feel more relaxed so that those in conflict can calm down and work toward a positive solution.

The goal is to find a solution that works for everyone that’s involved. Listen for common ground and involve those in conflict in trying to find a compromise or a mutually beneficial solution that allows both of them to get at least part of what they want.

When De-Escalation is Unsuccessful

De-escalation and mediation in staff conflict management often help to reestablish a calmer and more peaceful work environment. In some cases, one or both staff members are uncooperative. If that’s the case, or if the root of the problem is bullying or harassment, you may need to involve HR.

It’s a good idea to continually work on improving your leadership skills, including conflict management skills. Reach out to Peaceful Leaders Academy to find out what’s available in peaceful leadership training.

About the author : Valerie Dansereau