In any business and every department, conflicts can arise. From varying personalities to disagreements regarding the best strategy and concept, arguments can ensue, regardless of whether you’re a major corporation or starting a small business. Sometimes, coworkers even have personal disagreements that crossover into the professional environment.
Resolving these types of conflicts, from professional disagreements to personal vendettas, can be a challenge though they are often resolved on their own. If you’ve determined it’s time to intervene, following these four steps can make the process much easier for both an HR team and the individuals involved.
The best place to start when it comes to resolving conflict is having an individual discussion with each person involved. Someone from upper management, who is neutral to whatever incident has taken place, should be the one facilitating both the individual and group discussions. During your one-on-one conversations:
- Ask questions about the conflict such as when and how the problem began, who is involved, why they think the way they do in this situation, and their opinions on where the other person(s) stands.
- Let the individual vent about their emotions in dealing with the situation. Everyone you speak to will want to be heard and this is the opportunity to make sure that happens.
- Ask for a solution. Your business won’t be able to move forward and resolve the conflict if no solution or compromise is put in place. Asking each person for how they think things can be solved will help as you move to the next phase of conflict resolution.
Business is about evaluation; from progression to the reason your company experienced a setback, evaluation of a current status prompts change. After you conduct the individual discussion with all those who are involved, evaluate the initial problem, how things have progressed, and the resolutions possible. You’ll want to pay attention to:
- Each person’s take on the problem to see if it has been a simple miscommunication or is something more serious. If it is a miscommunication, clarification is key. If it is something more serious, you need to focus on why things have reached this point.
- The progression from the time things began to where they are now. Seeing how each has handled the situation from the beginning will give you clarity into how each manages stress and conflict on his/her own.
- The solution each person provides. Some may not have one and others may provide one-sided solutions. It is up to the facilitator to determine how to guide the following group discussion toward the best possible solution for those involved.
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This is often the most difficult part of resolving an interoffice conflict. Getting everyone who is heated in the same room and calm is challenging. To make sure things run smoothly and move toward a solution, you’ll want to lay out some ground rules such as:
- Time constraints. Will each person be given a certain amount of time to share what they want? It’s up to you to determine this, but you’ll want to set a start and end time for the group discussion so things don’t boil over and impact the rest of the workday negatively.
- Open conversation without interruption. Establish that if someone else is talking, no one else may interrupt except the facilitator. This also means explaining ideas cannot be criticized.
- Finding a solution that each person involved agrees upon is the goal. Having a goal in mind after the evaluation and making it clear to your team will aid you in keeping the discussion on the topic.
- Consider constructive practices such as gamification. Play is the natural course of learning and solving problems, so why not give it a try.
Once you’ve had individual discussions and have evaluated the problem and potential solutions, it’s time to end the group discussion with a resolution. Not everyone will be 100 percent happy and you may not find a win-win solution, but you need to resolve the issue for the betterment of those involved and, ultimately, the business as a whole. Your conflict resolution should:
- Discover what the true problem is. Work-related conflicts are bound to happen and can often be easily resolved by someone who remains neutral. Personal conflicts are a bit trickier and it is up to the facilitator to determine at which level they can intervene.
- Encourage each side to focus on the “big picture.” Sometimes, people are so focused on winning the minutiae, they lose sight of the end goals.
- Not offend or alienate any group or person. While someone may not get their way, you still want to make sure they know you took their opinions and emotions into consideration. Keep open communications as things progress after the meeting.
- Let each person know you are open to brief conversations afterward if they need any clarifications or run into a similar problem in the future. Make it clear this is not to continue the discussion you just had.
- End with a solution in place. Of course, the main purpose of the intervention of a work conflict is to solve the problem. After the three steps you took to get to this point, you must establish a solution and the steps necessary for its execution.
It’s crucial to realize there is a difference between reconciliation and resolution. While reconciliation cannot always be achieved, resolution can. By remaining neutral and taking into account all sides of the conflict, evaluating what you’ve heard, and holding a group discussion that ends with a solution in place, you’ll be able to keep your business running as efficiently as possible. Unifying a company is important for a business and you want to make sure conflicts are resolved as part of this.