Workplace conflict management and 5 key practical strategies
Even in the most laid-back office, disagreements and arguments are all bound to flare-up. While HR professionals have been defined as being the gatekeepers of an organization, it is essential that they have the ability to also play the role of mediator and peacekeeper.
From differing personalities and work styles to insidious office politics, HR professionals need to be able to resolve all forms of conflict in the office amicably.
What is conflict management?
Conflict management is one of the most important skills that HR professionals need to possess. It is defined as the ability to handle and resolve conflicts and disputes in an efficient, fair and sensible manner while remaining impartial at all times.
How do you deal with conflict in workplace?
In this article, we look at 5 tips and strategies that HR professionals can use to resolve conflict within the workplace.
1. A listening ear
When resolving a workplace issue, it is important to understand the root cause of the conflict. This can be done by meeting with both parties separately in a confidential manner and speaking to the aggrieved parties. Aside from giving both parties the opportunity to vent their frustrations healthily, this has the added benefit of giving HR professionals greater insight into the root cause of the underlying problem.
From then on, an action plan can be made on how the problem can be resolved amicably for both parties. Sometimes, a conflict can easily be resolved by simply providing the aggrieved party(ies) with the opportunity to discuss his/her problem.
2. Keeping an open door
It can be extremely frustrating for an aggrieved party to raise an issue with the HR department only to be ignored or shooed away. HR professionals often have to deal with dozens of requests at a time and it may be tempting to ignore an employee’s complaint as just another argument. In many situations, HR professionals have been accused of being “disconnected” from the workforce they are supposed to be representing.
This should not be the case as an unhappy employee can easily disenfranchised and demotivated which on the long-term leads to toxic employees and higher employee turnover. Not only are toxic employees difficult to manage, but they are also able to sow disharmony within the organization which can lead to much larger problems.
Hence, HR professionals should adopt an open door policy when dealing with employees. Not only does this send a positive message to the other members of the organization, but it also a great method for HR professionals to keep their ears close to the ground. Thus, they will be able to easily identify problematic employees or any other underlying talent management related issues within the organization.
HR departments are usually the last refuge for employees with their backs against the wall. Let’s face it, nobody ever likes visiting the HR department. Thus, when resolving conflict in the workplace, the HR professional needs to be completely unbiased and objective at all times regardless of the circumstances of the conflict.
What does this mean?
In Asian countries, the unspoken rule among most employees is that junior staff members will always be required to submit when dealing with more senior staff members. Often, this can result in workplace bullying where a more senior employee misuses his/her authority to intimidate or hassle a junior employee.
Rather than assigning blame to the junior employee in favor of the more senior staff member, HR professionals should meet with both parties individually to better understand the issue at hand. Should the senior employee be at fault, the HR professional should confront him/her directly and advise them that a change in behavior is needed.
4. Focus on the problem not the person
When dealing with a particularly prickly issue or difficult employee, even the most experienced HR professional will have a trouble keeping his/her cool and may be tempted to react in a negative manner. However, keeping one’s emotions in check and out of the way is crucial when resolving conflict.
HR professionals should always keep in mind that negative behavior or actions are not always the result of hostile intent; such behavior can be the result of fear, confusion, anger, habit etc. Thus, when entering a meeting always remember to keep a cool head and take a walk should the situation become overwhelming.
5. Knowing when to give up
It may seem strange seeing this point here, but there comes a time when even the efforts of the most skilled or experienced HR manager reach a point of diminishing returns. The HR professional may be dealing with an individual who has psychological problems which require professional intervention or the individual simply has no desire to resolve the conflict.
This philosophy also apply when physical force has been used or even implied at some point. In such a situation, an employee’s skills, talents and position have no grounding whatsoever and said employee should be terminated immediately to ensure the safety of all parties involved.
While nobody likes dealing with conflict and disagreements, these 5 tips can go a long way in helping you boost your conflict resolution skills in the workplace.