1. Be Flexible And Agile
To me, it’s all about good faith. As the mediator, be flexible with your approach and agile in how you respond and work through the issues. You have to inspire hope in the process that items will be resolved and that changes are long-lasting. You must also develop trust in others. Lastly, you must be humane by injecting humanity into the process.
2. Nip It In The Bud Immediately
Co-worker disputes are like cancer in an organization, so address any issues immediately. Leadership should ensure that the team is clear on the deliverables and there is alignment on goals. Afterward, they should bring the disputing parties together to discuss the disagreement and understand the points of conflict, making it clear that both parties can be right and wrong.
3. Consider Each Party’s Perspective
Listen carefully to each side so that you can help each party understand the other’s perspective. Often, disputes are the result of competing priorities or motivations. Putting each party in the other’s shoes can assist them in finding the right solution or compromise. This also serves to maintain or strengthen the relationship, which likely has longer-term benefits than solving the dispute itself.
4. Facilitate Open Discussions
One of the most effective mediators of co-worker disputes is encouraging open communication between the parties involved. Facilitating open discussions that provide everyone the chance to express their views enhances open communication. Promoting participation in dispute resolution is vital to help increase cooperation and reduce conflict between co-workers.
5. Identify A Trusted Influencer To Mediate
Trust is the most important element in mediating disputes. This first step is to identify a key influencer within the organization that can serve as a bridge. Typically, this person has an existing relationship with both parties, maintains strong organizational credibility and can propose compromises that appear reasonable. In all disputes, the relationship matters more than the solution.
6. Keep The Focus On The Dispute
Co-worker disputes should be resolved as soon as possible. Invite both parties to a casual conversation in a place more informal than the manager’s office, but one that still allows for privacy. Discuss the dispute in terms of actions and processes that need to be changed rather than individual characteristics. Don’t be afraid to come back to the table if needed to keep lines of communication open.
7. Treat Everyone With Grace, Dignity And Respect
Promote a company culture that fosters inclusion and diversity. Treat all parties involved with grace, dignity and respect. Deeply listen and allow for the respective parties involved to communicate openly and honestly. Validating what is being communicated will ultimately allow everyone involved to be authentically seen, heard and understood.
8. Normalize Conflict Management Practices For Teams
Conflict is a normal part of life. Normalizing conflict management in a team, by providing a common language and dialogue tools, is key to eliminating surface issues early and gaining commitment to work through them. Learning and practicing these tools before they are needed sets the team up for success when the need arises. Creating a common space for alternative perspectives strengthens this muscle as well.
9. Establish An Action Plan To Remedy The Issue
The following steps have worked best for me during conflict resolution. Meet with both employees in a private room where there can be an honest discussion. Then, allow each person to summarize their point of view. Next, ask each person to describe specific actions they’d like the other person to take to remedy the issue. And finally, establish a path forward and check in to see if the issue has been resolved.
10. Be Impartial
The most effective way to approach co-worker disputes is with impartiality. Managers should always avoid showing favoritism to either party and should listen to each side carefully before settling disagreements. Allowing friendships or personal feelings to affect decisions could exacerbate conflict within teams, causing relationships to deteriorate and similar situations to occur more frequently.
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