Conflict has been brewing amongst the troops and all signs point to this skirmish being more than a minor squabble. Do you allow the parties involved to work out the issues on their own? It’s worth a shot. You don’t want to swoop in unnecessarily every time a difference of opinion pops up. Yet, if the pot is allowed to boil too long—and it boils dry—the billows of smoke will choke out everyone in the company.
As you weigh the pros and cons of stepping in to intervene, consider these questions:
Has “I quit!” becomes a serious consideration for one or more of those involved?
Has the discord caused respect to vanish in favor of personal attacks?
Has the conflict threatened productivity?
Does the skirmish appear to be contagious? Are other areas, departments, teams showing signs of “infection”?
When the signs point toward the need for intervention, use these strategies to bring about a resolution:
Seek to understand the situation. Few situations are exactly as they seem. Investigate all aspects of the situation. Interview supervisors or department heads to get their feedback on the issues at hand.
Meet alone with each individual, with listening ears fully engaged. Observe body language. Pay attention as closely to what’s not being said as to what is being said. Take some time after the meeting to ponder the findings and make a few notes.
As you listen, and then review, the notes from the individual meetings, strive to focus on the problem rather than the person. Put aside any pre-conceived opinions or past experiences concerning any of the parties involved.
Arrange a group discussion and establish a few meeting guidelines. Insist that all involved express themselves calmly and attempt to understand each other’s perspective.
Allow each individual to state their side of the situation. Restate the complaints as you understand them from the speaker’s account, to be sure the speaker is adequately communicating the issues.
Make round two about resolution. Ask each individual to suggest one or more solutions. Record all suggestions on a white board—even the outlandish ones.
At this point, a break may be needed depending on the atmosphere of the meeting. If the energy is positive and the parties engaged, go on to round three. If tension is high and a stalemate appears likely, send each participant on their way with a copy of all the resolution suggestions. Either then or at a second meeting, discuss the feasibility of each solution, noting how a combination of solutions may be a fitting resolution.
Conclude with a plan that all parties agree to try. Schedule a follow-up to gauge the success of the resolution. Expect adjustments or minor tweaking before reaching a final resolution.
Click here to read part I on Conflict in the Workplace
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