For anyone who leads a workforce either as a business owner or as an HR professional, resolving conflict is an important skill to master. With work forming a large chunk of our week, getting along with colleagues makes time easier to spend for everyone, and a harmonious workplace makes for increased productivity and higher morale.
However, seeing eye to eye all of the time is hardly realistic or achievable; in fact, over 10 million people experience conflict at work each year according to ACAS, with ‘more than half reporting stress, anxiety or depression as a result’. This can lead to absenteeism, high staff turnover, and an environment that doesn’t exactly spark the magic of collaboration. In short, professional disagreements need to be handled quickly, professionally, and sensitively, before they bubble over into personal ones.
In this article, we’ll be exploring the ways in which you can navigate conflict resolution so that disputes and acrimony can be explored and resolved to the satisfaction of everyone involved.
Understand The Conflict:
The way forward won’t be clear if you don’t know what you’re dealing with, so it’s important to pinpoint the source of the conflict before you go further. This will generally involve separate conversations with everyone involved, where you should practice active listening so that you can not only gain insight into the situation through non-verbal signals but also ensure that each party feels heard.
Don’t underestimate the importance of location when it comes to these conversations – a quick chat at desks won’t cut it. Find a private, neutral space, off-site if necessary, to ensure that privacy is honoured, and honesty encouraged.
Create Space For Mutual Discussion, And Identify The Common Goal:
That neutral, private location is one that you can use again for a discussion between all parties, which should take place in order for those involved to understand the viewpoint of the other. Make sure you give each party the same amount of time to talk and make it clear that interruptions from others won’t be allowed while each person is speaking.
Airing the problem is the only way forward, by encouraging empathy, understanding, and the identification of what point both parties would like to get to.
Agree On A Way Forward:
During this mutual discussion, constructive alternatives should be suggested, with each explored to settle on one that is agreeable to everyone; you could brainstorm them if you need to. This is likely the most important part of conflict resolution, and efforts should be made to establish everyone’s role and responsibility in making the solution work.
Monitor And Regroup:
The risk of further problems can occur when the commitment to the resolution begins to falter – all too quickly everyone can forget what was discussed, falling back into their old ways around the conflict. It’s therefore important to have clear targets to reach, and/or dates in the diary for check-ins. This ensures that everyone is doing their bit to reach the common goal, and is no longer experiencing the negative impact that workplace conflict can have.
Call The Professionals:
When common ground can’t be found, the conflict goes beyond a workplace squabble, or it treads more into breach-of-contract territory, you may need to invest in professional help. Luckily, such help exists in the form of solicitors for employment law. With up-to-date knowledge of the latest legislation and Human Resources best practices, they can ensure that you’re fulfilling your legal obligation as an employer, and that the rights of the involved individuals are being protected whilst you look to resolve the conflict.
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