Set expectations for how and when this will happen. At what point does a manager need to get involved in a staff conflict? Do employees have the proper channels for bringing conflicts to the appropriate person’s attention?
It is also important to delineate that some types of conflict should always be escalated, like those involving threats of violence, harassment, or illegal activity. Make sure employees know they are not expected to deal with these types of issues on their own.
Define HR’s Role
A company’s human resources department wears many hats, and one of those is to act as a neutral mediator during times of conflict. Typically, HR will get involved when employees and their managers cannot resolve a conflict on their own or when the conflict exists between two different levels of seniority, like between a manager and their subordinates. HR should also step in in any conflicts involving harassment, discrimination, or issues that might require law enforcement intervention.
Though HR does not need to be directly involved with all conflicts in the workplace, they should be kept in the loop about any situation that goes beyond a minor dispute. Too often, HR learns of an issue after it has already escalated, when earlier involvement could have helped mitigate the damage.
Take Proactive Steps for Workplace Conflict Resolution
One of the most comprehensive, widely cited studies on workplace conflict found that conflict management training was far and away the biggest driver of high-quality conflict outcomes.
Fewer than half of the survey participants had ever received such training, yet 95% of those who did found it helpful. When employees are given strategies to manage disputes effectively, it can transform conflict from a drain on company resources to a positive avenue for building stronger, more well-rounded collaborative employees.
In addition to training, other proactive tactics for managing workplace conflict include a peer review system and third-party mediation. In a peer review, the employees involved in a conflict present their sides of the issue to a small panel of their peers who have been elected or appointed to help adjudicate such conflicts. The panel then acts as a jury of sorts to issue a decision on resolving the conflict.
Third-party mediation works in a similar way, but with an external party acting as the mediator. This person might be a trained professional in conflict resolution or simply an objective party without a stake in the disagreement.
We'll end here and continue next week