It would be nice to think that there would never be a dispute in the workplace, but misunderstandings are unvoidable and are to be expected in a passionate, engaged team. That’s why smart companies hire people with great communication skills to minimize misunderstandings, so they can settle conflict between themselves if it does arise. But, at times you’ll need to or want to intervene to restore balance and harmony.
1. Hire great collaborators.
Studies show that staff usually fail at their jobs not because of technical skills but because they don’t have the communication and socialization skills to get on with the people around them. Focus on hiring great technicians, but also great collaborators.
2. Set the tone.
Ideally, you should encourage staff to work out things amicably between each rather than to adopt a ’tell the teacher’ approach as escalating it can make things worse at times. Let staff know what is acceptable and what isn’t.
3. Give staff the tools to resolves disputes themselves.
Write down some guidelines/ principles on how people should treat each other and detail out some techniques and methods for dispute resolution and circulate to staff.
4. Show people how to negotiate.
Conflict can arise due to a lack of negotiation and influencing skills and if you have high levels of conflict why not invest in some training in this area. You could have a trainer come in and talk to your team or you could have more experienced workers coach and mentor staff on negotiating.
5. Make a workplace that dissipates tension.
Create relaxation areas, quiet workspaces and break out areas so employees can work without distraction or distracting others, helping to reduce frustration and dissipate tension as it arises.
6. Grievance policy.
By law you’ll need to have a written grievance policy so employees can use it to raise issues with you. You can get one from ACAS, and it lets you know how to handle disputes and grievances fairly.
7. Neutrality is key.
If people in confict believe the mediator is on the other person’s side, it will undermine the process. Make sure that both parties in the conflict believe the mediator is neutral even if you have to go outside the company to get a thirdparty mediator.
8. See conflict as an opportunity.
Don’t fear conflict, but see it as an opportunity for greater understanding between two or more conflicting parties and a way to create a stronger relationship and team spirit going forwards. It can be an opportunity to improve your working environment.
9. Send a message to the business.
The way you handle the conflict will send a strong message to the business so make sure its an effective message. Don’t allow unnacceptable behaviour to go unchecked as your lack of censure could be seen as tacit approval, making the unnacceptable behaviour more likely to happen again.
10. Make a conflict agreement.
By asking and listening to both parties grievances and wishes going forwards, craft a detailed agreement about how they will communicate and collaborate going forwards with each other to reduce conflict and make the relationship more manageable.