Conflict Management in the Workplace

The best kind of conflict is the kind that is “nipped in the bud.”  Awareness and early intervention are two key components in the conflict management toolbox that keep a workplace running smoothly.  While tension and employee dissatisfaction erode profits and productivity, effective conflict management programs help create a work setting that promotes harmony, cooperation and financial success.

Focus on the Future

Mediation in a divorce or civil dispute generally involves parties who are ending a relationship and there is a strong focus on past events.  Workplace mediation has a much stronger future focus, bringing together employees who are involved in a work-related conflict that is undermining their job effectiveness and compromising the success of their teams, departments and companies.  Rather than ending a relationship, the disputing parties need to work out a way to continue their relationship in a productive fashion. The purpose of the mediation is to talk things out and identify a detailed, behaviorally-oriented solution that will get job performance back on track.  Follow-up meetings verify that the agreed-upon resolution is working for both parties.

Blips, Clashes and Crises

Conflicts come in all sizes and shapes.  There is the casual disagreement, or blip, between two people who generally like each other and get along.  There is the more serious disagreement that has been smoldering for awhile and is beginning to erode mutual respect and trust and affect work results.  This type of conflict can be categorized as a clash.  Then there is the deeper conflict, called a conflict crisis, that can potentially escalate into violence, vandalism or theft.  Each type of conflict calls for a specific set and level of conflict resolution skills.

The Right Skills, The Right Training

While complex conflicts and conflict crises require the intervention of professional mediators, with the proper training and support materials, blips and clashes can be handled “in house” by company employees and managers.  A conflict resolution technique called Self Mediation can, in fact, be handled by the disputing employees, themselves, without any participation or intervention of a third party.   Managerial Mediation, another conflict resolution technique, requires the participation of a manager.  After the manager calls a preliminary meeting with the employees in conflict, he or she arranges for and conducts a mediation meeting to address the issues at hand.  As already pointed out, the focus is on the future and the solution to the problem is created by and agreed to by the disputing employees.

Both Self Mediation and Managerial Mediation involve easily learned communication techniques and conflict management skills that can be taught in short, one-day seminars.  For many, these conflict resolution skills are considered core competencies in today’s workplace.  The learned communication and conflict management skills are useful and applicable both at work and at home.

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