Managing conflict in the workplace requires an understanding of the contributory factors and personal impact on each party. Left unresolved, conflict damages long term relationships, lowers morale and threatens productivity.
With formal methods of conflict resolution (for example Grievance, Disciplinary and Employment Tribunal cases) rarely serving to preserve long term relationships and achieve positive resolutions, here’s a 4 point plan to help your team manage conflict in the workplace effectively:
- Early intervention.
Equip your managers with the skills and expertise so that they are alert to conflict and unafraid to explore issues as they arise. Conflict that remains unchecked can often lead to entrenched positions and damaged relationships that become more difficult to resolve.
- Informal space.
Wherever possible and appropriate, encourage the parties to explore their differences through the informal space of conflict resolution. Here, the parties create their own solution and agreement, and this enables the buy in and engagement to create a workable and sustainable solution.
- Facilitated discussion and mediation.
Sometimes the parties feel that further communication is impossible, or they hit a wall in exploring the more challenging aspects of their conflict. Facilitated discussions and/or mediation can be highly effective in unblocking barriers to resolution. Even formal conflict resolution processes, with the agreement of all key stakeholders, can be adjourned to explore this opportunity. In our experience, these methods are highly effective and enable dialogue to flow towards resolution.
- Recognise that for some cases, formal conflict resolution processes are unavoidable.
At Vista we are passionate about supporting leaders and managers to resolve conflict within the informal space. But sometimes, some cases should move to the formal process automatically.
Remember, there are significant legal and risk-based considerations in certain areas of conflict, and this should always be a factor in your decision making process.
This video from 10to3 Digital can help guide your teams as to when to hit the ‘formal’ button when managing conflict in the workplace.
Investigation Managers also benefit from expert knowledge about conflict resolution. In appropriate cases, they will be looking for evidence of management attempts to resolve the conflict and in addition may be able to provide sound recommendations for a future focus on conflict resolution at the end of the investigation report.
Finally, some food for thought
- Do your managers feel competent and confident to deal with interpersonal and issues-based conflict?
- Has your organisation developed channels of informal conflict resolution?
- Is your organisation able to support skilled, facilitated discussions and offer mediation?
- Do your HR Business Partners and Employee Relations team use the informal and formal space for conflict resolution appropriately for each individual case?
Employers have a commitment to ensuring their workforce have the opportunity to raise concerns and have them dealt with open-mindedly. Whilst designing conflict resolution training for our clients, we have developed some practical techniques that will help your team manage conflict in the workplace, create constructive solutions and assert their right to manage.
You can check out some of those techniques for free here:
- Questioning techniques to create the right open minded atmosphere
- A 3-part technique to break down complex conflicts
If you’d like to talk about conflict resolution training for your team, you can request a free consultation with our Learning and ER experts here.
Don’t forget – you can also become a member of our resource hub (it’s free!) to get your hands on more guidance on all aspects of employee relations and people management.