How to Manage Workplace Conflict

No one enjoys dealing with conflict at work. Unfortunately for HR reps, they often have to deal with the brunt of conflict resolution concerns. Whether its co-workers who don’t like each other or a negative relationship between a boss and employee, conflict leads to poor productivity and affects everyone else in the workplace. For H.R. reps it’s important to approach any conflict with a systematic approach that keeps them out of the heat of the conflict and level-headed, so they can perform unbiased mediation. For more effective conflict resolution, here are some tips to consider.

1. Allow a Cool-Down Period

While some situations may require immediate interference, such as if a fight gets physical, people will be better able to discuss what happened after they’ve had a chance to cool down after an argument. Try to schedule a meeting for the next day, so feelings aren’t allowed to fester, but everyone involved has a chance to re-collect their thoughts.

2. Talk with the Parties Involved at the Same Time

It’s important to both show the parties involved that you don’t have bias and to prevent yourself from becoming biased by talking to individuals on their own. If you talk to one worker first, you could unconsciously take their side because you have only heard their side of the story. Instead, get both parties in their room and allow each person to tell their side without interruptions. Avoid expressing your own opinion throughout this conversation.

3. Look for Common Ground

Once both sides have had a chance to express themselves, try to seek some common ground. Perhaps both co-workers are really passionate about the success of a project and are butting heads because they are both anxious about its success. Maybe one co-worker has a tendency to joke around and is unknowingly hurting the feelings of another co-worker, and the teasing co-worker needs to have some empathy for what the other person is feeling. In either case, the purpose isn’t to establish blame, unless something truly illegal or abusive is going on, but to help the employees understand each other’s point of view.

4. Act with Authority

While resolving conflicts, it’s important to maintain your authority as the H.R. manager. This means sticking to guidelines and timelines you have set and not adjusting them for a boss or manager who wants to control the situation. This is critical to keeping the resolution fair to lower-level employees and letting the parties involved know that the decisions you make are final.

5. Keep a Record of Any Legal Concerns

If during a resolution you come across anything with legal implications, such as sexual harassment, extortion or physical abuse, it will be important for the accusing party to make a formal complaint. Any actions you take after that should be carefully be recorded and follow the guidelines outlined by law. No H.R. rep wants to end up with a lawsuit and no evidence to support their actions.

6. Seek a Solution

Once you’ve done all you can to help the opposing parties find some common ground, seek a solution to the problem so both parties can move on. Ideally, the solution will come from the parties involved, but if they cannot come up with a resolution, you may need to seek one of your own. This may mean setting guidelines of how co-workers proceed on a task, requesting a change in a team setup or perhaps helping a manager establish a new employee appreciation program that is more effective.

7. Follow Up

Be sure to follow up with employees to see that any new guidelines are being followed and to see if any additional changes need to be made. Always keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to create a healthy work environment, not to promote a particular system you come up with.

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