As a manager, you may think conflict resolution is not part of your job description - otherwise, you would have applied to be high school teacher right?
Unfortunately, adults can be just as, if not more, confrontational than teenagers. For this reason, we have outlined some key strategies for de-escalating conflict in your team.
If employees are threatening to quit over the problem and it is affecting the overall morale, performance or atmosphere of the workplace, then it is worth investigating the problem, recruiting and training are expensive after all.
It is far less time-consuming and expensive to set out procedures for preventing conflict in the first place than putting out the fires after they have happened.
A workplace layout that doesn’t consider the people in it (i.e. cramped, noisy, dark, hot) can lead to heightened levels of stress and quickly develop into a volatile atmosphere or could put people at risk (e.g. poorly-lit, isolated exits). Changing the way your workplace looks doesn’t have to be costly, just moving around some furniture can make a massive difference to employee’s wellbeing and thus, their interactions with each other.
When it is clear that two individuals are stepping on each other’s toes, it may be helpful to move them to different teams, departments, projects, or even just a different desk.
Diversity, equity and inclusivity programs can help employees understand how to treat each other respectfully. It can provide them with the social strategies and tools to work amicably with their peers, despite their differences. It also provides training in conflict management so they can handle confrontational behavior appropriately.
No matter how inclusive and respectful the workplace, certain individuals are simply prone to dispute and clashing with others. In these (albeit rare) situations, you can use ADR - alternative dispute resolution.
These can be arranged by you or another superior, or even the people at conflict (although they generally need a push from management to face the problem). It involves sitting down and talking through issues, during which time the manager or supervisor should remain impartial. This gives people plenty of opportunities to voice concerns, agree on a solution, and clear the air.
This involves a trained mediator having discussions with the people at conflict to address issues in a controlled environment. Mediators are skilled at encouraging people to calmly talk and listen to one another, and guide people to reach a conclusion that repairs relationships and gets work activities back on track. A mediator maybe someone in the business suitably trained or an external party.
This is very similar to mediation except that unlike a mediator, the conciliator is responsible for making the final decision on what people should do to settle their differences. The settlement isn’t legally-binding but it is encouraged that those who took part in the conciliation stick to it.
This is more formal than the previous methods. Evidence for each side of the conflict is submitted to an arbitrator, and lawyers may represent people’s cases. The arbitrator considers the evidence and imposes a legally-binding settlement that all parties will have pre-agreed to.
Here is how you should structure a conflict-resolution meeting: