Guest Post by Patrick Del Rosario
It can be tempting to turn a blind eye to pesky employee squabbles and hope they simply work themselves out. Unfortunately, though, workplace disputes rarely work themselves out on their own, and even the smallest disagreements can escalate into more serious problems if left to fester for too long.
According to recent research, between 24 and 60% of management time is spent on dealing with conflicts and anger in the work place.
While it may seem like all this time would be better spent on some other aspect of running a business, it is important to keep in mind that employees are the very thing that keep a company going, and in order to keep your workforce productive, happy and stress-free, interventions are often necessary.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when settling conflicts in the workplace.
1. Stay neutral and listen to both sides of the story
When dealing with conflicts amongst your employees, it is important that you stay neutral and don’t pick sides. Picking sides will only worsen the problem and prevent you from coming up with a workable solution that sits well with both parties involved.
In a small business setting this may be more difficult, because you work so closely with people that the line between your professional relationship and your friendship can become blurred.
Before you even attempt to mediate a conflict, ask yourself whether or not you will be able to stay neutral and keep an open mind. If you don’t feel that you will be able to do this, for whatever reason, you should seriously consider bringing in a third party mediator, who can leave their personal opinions and feelings out of the matter.
One good way to help keep things neutral is to take the mediating outside the office. This will prevent other employees from feeling caught in the middle of it, and being away from the office during the discussion can help everyone feel more at ease.
During your meeting, try to give both parties a chance to speak their part without being interrupted by anyone. Then, once everyone has had their say and gotten the grievances off their chest, they will be more willing to listen to what others have to say and see the situation from another perspective.
2. Stick with the facts
Most employee squabbles are very emotionally charged, so it is important that you as the mediator are able to keep the emotions out of the picture and listen only to the facts that are being presented.
You will probably hear lots of feelings and assumptions, but while these may be very valid concerns to the person in question, what he or she assumes or perceives may not necessarily be correct. For example, you may be told things like “I feel like he doesn’t respect me…” or “I know that he doesn’t like me…” While these are certainly real concerns, you cannot do anything with assumptions and emotions.
So, in order to get to the bottom of it, ask questions like “why do you feel that way?” or “what makes you think that?” In this way, you can learn more about specific actions and behavior that might have caused the problem.
You will also have concrete facts to go on, rather than vague assumptions about what another person may be doing or thinking. Once you are aware of any problems (whether real or perceived) you can go about helping your employees to see areas in which they need to improve or change.
Keep in mind that while you do want to get the straight facts, you will probably have to wade through a lot of emotions to get to them, which will take time and patience. Always try to be understanding of your employee’s predicament, and don’t downplay their issues by telling them to get over it or move on.
3. Ask your employees what they would like to do to resolve the conflict
Even once you have heard both sides of the story, you may still be at a loss as to where you should begin. Sometimes, asking the employees themselves what they would like to do to resolve the issue is a good way to come up with a workable solution that both parties are in agreement with.
Also, you should always consider the possibility that the company’s practices or management methods may have played a part in the dispute. If this is the case, try to get feedback from your employees about how you could improve the team’s morale and encourage better collaboration in the future.
Try to help your employees become part of the solution rather than looking at them as the problem. If you are able to approach conflicts in this way and stay open to suggestions and feedback from others in the company, your mediating will be a whole lot easier in the future.
Guest Post - About the Author: Patrick Del Rosario is a Filipino business and career ninja. He works at Open Colleges, one of the pioneers of Online education in Australia and one of the leading providers of human resources courses and cert iv training and assessment