Conflicts are bound to arise when people co-exist and work together. It is normal for disagreements to surface between individuals, leading to differences in opinion. However, if the conflicts are allowed to get out of hand, it can be detrimental to the workplace. Even the best job can become miserable in such destructive or uncontrolled conditions. Destructive conflict can adversely affect both, the productivity of the workplace as well as the quality of life and the health of the people at the workplace. Conflicts at the workplace can turn into full-blown battles or can instead be turned into opportunities for solving problems creatively, it all depends largely upon the person who is in charge of it and the appropriate use of management techniques to resolve the issues.
Given below are a few conflict resolution tips for dealing with spats among employees in the workplace:
No good is going to come out of avoiding the conflict. If you keep hoping that it will settle down by itself, you are in for a very big disappointment. It usually never does. Even if it may appear to simmer down, it is sure to resurface whenever there is another discord or an increase in stress levels. So, the sooner you get at it, the better it will be.
Identify what the bone of contention is. Ensure that everybody involved is well aware of what the problem is, and what they are arguing about. Discuss it until everybody understands that a problem does exist, and comprehends the key issues involved.
Don't meet each person involved in the conflict separately. By allowing each person to tell their story separately, you risk the chance of getting them polarized about the position they take. The individual involved has a dominant interest in proving himself/herself right if they think you are going to be the judge or the arbiter. This will make everything more complex and much harder.
Set up a meeting wherein all the people involved in the argument come together. Let each person elucidate his or her opinions and point of view about the matter, without being interrupted by anybody else. Then, allow a discussion, in order to let each person be clear about what the conflicting views are. If one employee attacks another, you will need to intervene. It is up to you to see to it that everybody feels supported and safe.
Ask each person to express what actions they want the other person(s) to take which they think would solve the dispute. Work out what can be done realistically, so that each person's expectations are met. You also need to figure out how the actions and steps that you take will have an effect on the other objectives and projects of the organization.
Try to find out where can a compromise be made. For example, examine if there are some parts of the issue where everybody is in agreement. If that is not possible, try elucidating the long-term aims of the company which affects everybody involved, and begin from that point.
Ensure that each person takes up a responsibility and commits to making the required changes. Create an environment wherein each and everybody treats each other with respect and dignity. Employees must be made to understand that while it is fine to have reasonable differences of opinion about plans and issues, it is not acceptable to allow personality clashes have an adverse effect on the workplace.
Let the adversaries know that you will not favor one over the other, and that it is not possible for a person not involved in the conflict to really know the exact truth that surrounds the issue. Also, they are expected to find resolutions in a proactive manner, as thinking, responsible adults. Make it very clear that you may have to take disciplinary action if they are unwilling to find a workable resolution, which can even result in both parties being dismissed.
And lastly, all the people involved in the conflict should be assured that you have faith in their capability of resolving their differences and carry on contributing successfully to the organization. Define a time where you will review the progress made.
Resolving conflicts at the workplace (or anywhere else) can be a challenging task. However, the role of the mediator is part of the supervisor's or manager's ambit of work. You can use the resolution tips given here to create an environment at the workplace that encourages people to work harmoniously, both for individual success and that of the organization in turn.