Wouldn’t it be great to be able to hire a team so compatible that you never had any conflicts between team members or employees?
While you can make hiring to fit a priority, the truth is that your organization is going to run into conflicts no matter what, and the best way to deal with those conflicts is to have a structured, empathetic mediation plan in place before any issues crop up.
The biggest risk with a workplace conflict is the potential for the conflict to spread throughout the organization. Negative feelings have a tendency to be contagious, and it’s natural for people to gravitate toward different “sides” of a disagreement. When the atmosphere is clouded by conflict, productivity levels often decrease, and morale can take a drastic turn.
If a conflict between team members becomes big enough to cause problems within the workplace, it’s time for a leader to step in. But what is the right way to handle the conflict?
Understand the situation.
Before you take any action, it’s important to understand exactly what is going on between your team members. Hear out both sides of the conflict, separately at first, to get a more objective idea of what is going on. How did they view the conflict? What kind of solution are they hoping for?
One of the best ways to eventually come to a satisfying resolution is to ask the question: What needs aren’t being met for both parties? If you can establish that early on, and work toward meeting those needs, your chances for a successful resolution are higher.
Work together on a solution.
Rarely is there a clear solution to workplace conflicts — even more rarely is there a solution in which both parties are completely happy. One way to get ahead of this inevitability is to ask for input from each party about what kind of solution they are hoping for and work toward incorporating aspects of each side’s needs into the final decisions.
By asking for (and using) input from both team members, you are showing them that you value their needs. This can go a long way toward building their trust in you as an empathetic leader.
Generate clear guidelines.
Coming up with a mutually satisfying (or as mutually satisfying as possible) solution is not the end of the conflict. The solution needs to be clearly documented and requires clear guidelines in order to be understood and implemented.
Documentation should include:
- The cause of the conflict
- The grievances and desires of all involved parties
- The agreed-upon solution
- Steps needed to implement a solution
Keeping these guidelines explicit and clear will help you evaluate the situation accurately, as needed. This will also help to close the conflict more definitively so that all parties can move on toward a healthier, happier working environment.
Remember: Conflicts are natural, and can even be healthy for an organization. If you have a clear, empathetic mediation plan in place, you’ll have a much better chance of benefiting from them in the long run.