If you’re in a management or senior position, a large part of your job probably involves mediating interpersonal issues. Resolving conflict and disputes in the workplace can be a difficult and stressful process, especially if you don’t have counselling or mediation skills.
When you have the skills to mediate conflict it reduces the risk of litigation and investigation, which is a drain on organisations. There are many online courses and professional development programs dedicated to upskilling in mediation and counselling. But for now, the following seven steps are a great starting point to help you confidently resolve workplace conflict.
- Start the Process as Soon as Possible
As with most problems, letting them fester over a period of time only intensifies emotions and makes them harder to solve. So, as soon as an issue is brought to your attention make plans to try to resolve the conflict quickly.
- Do Your Research
When a complaint has been lodged, take the time to do your research on the grievance. As a mediator you’ll want to go into the meeting with as many facts as possible. This could involve speaking with human resources, senior staff or other employees about processes, workflow or responsibilities to better understand how the issue has arisen. Keep in mind that you must keep the complainant and complaint confidential.
- Meet with Both Parties Separately
Conduct separate interviews and ask questions to clarify specific problems experienced by individual people/parties. This is an important step so that the individual involved feels comfortable to disclose feeling and issues freely without the other party present. This way you are able to ascertain each person/party’s point-of-view.
- Meet with Parties Together
The next step is to arrange a mutually agreeable time and place to conduct the mediation with both parties. Mediation is a way to prevent, de-escalate and resolve interpersonal conflict, so try to focus on finding positive options for resolving the conflict in a timely manner.
- Use Active Listening
During mediation it’s important to use active listening techniques – reframing, summarising, reflecting, clarifying, paraphrasing and problem solving – to carefully summarise the key issues. Try to avoid interrupting but make sure you ask questions to clarify specific problems. A flow chart may be helpful to highlight any discrepancies in the information provided.
- Consider Limitations
It’s also important to understand the limitations of resolving the conflict. These could include legal, ethical, moral or logistical limitations. Ensure you consult organisational guidelines/policies or speak with key staff so you can confidently facilitate an agreement.
- Resolution – Ensure Everyone is Satisfied
You should encourage both parties to discuss their own resolutions. If you can come to an agreement that’s mutually advantageous at this stage, great! If not, see if you can have both parties agree to reconvene to continue negotiations.
Hopefully this information is useful but be aware that mediation is a complex process. So, if your job involves resolving workplace conflict and you don’t have mediation training, consider an online course or professional development program today.
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