Conflicts are a natural occurrence in every workplace. No matter how well a team gets along and how efficient they are when it comes to performing their tasks, tensions and disagreements can sometimes be inevitable. When such issues are left unresolved or unaddressed for long periods of time, the problem exacerbates and can begin to interfere with workplace efficiency and productivity.
As an HR professional, it’s your responsibility to manage workplace conflicts. It’s unlikely you’ll ever be able to eliminate them altogether, but you can embrace tactics to deescalate and resolve them whenever they do occur. In this article, we’ve gone ahead and compiled five steps to mitigating workplace conflicts:

1. Set Ground Rules For Discussing the Conflict

When tackling a workplace conflict among employees, one of the first things that HR professionals should do is to set ground rules for everyone involved in the conflict. The purpose here is to set the expectations for how all parties involved are to conduct themselves throughout the resolution process. At a minimum, they should require all parties to treat each other with the utmost respect when discussing the matter, to listen to each other’s reasoning, and to keep an open mind during any subsequent meetings on the issue at hand. Once you the HR officer determines and sets these ground rules, it is your responsibility to ensure that all parties are adhering to them throughout the resolution process. 

2. Talk with the Participants in Private

As the HR professional, you should always be fair and impartial. It’s important that you first meet with all parties involved in the conflict separately to get each of their points of view on the issue at hand. Understanding where each participant is coming from will help you to better understand the conflict as a whole, and what the resolution should look like.
 It’s important that initial meetings are done in private for multiple reasons, including:

  • To avoid having any party alter or omit their version of the happening based on what another party says.
  • To avoid further conflict.
  • To ensure all parties feel comfortable expressing their feelings and views on the matter at hand.

 Talking to the employees in private allows you to acknowledge their feelings so they really feel heard. It’s important that you listen first, and avoid putting them on the defensive. These types of meetings should be conducted in a space like a conference room or private office where no one can overhear or interrupt the session.

3. Conduct Further Investigation on the Issue

After you’ve obtained a statement from all parties, take some time to investigate the case. It could be helpful to talk to people around the office and get their view on the matter, too. This will give you a better picture of how the conflict started and identify other possible reasons that might have led to the escalation of the issue. You could also set up another meeting with all parties and provide a summary of each other’s statement to make sure that you’re all on the same page. 
While you’re relaying the happenings based on your understanding of the participant’s statements, you can also ask them whether they agree with your account of the events or not. If not, modify your statement until you both reach an agreement. Doing this gives you a chance to better identify the root and cause of the conflict between two parties and help you as you create solutions to resolve the conflict.

4. Identify Solutions

Now that you’ve heard both sides, understood the issues, and identified the root of the conflict, it’s time to formulate solutions based on your findings. Your solutions provide a compromise for all parties that will enable them to continue working and collaborating with each other. It also aims to ensure that the same conflict won’t reoccur in the future.
 When formulating solutions, it may help to lay all the information out on a Venn diagram. Create a circle for each party and bullet out all common ground among them in the space where the circles overlap. Identifying the common ground can be a good jumping off point when formulating a resolve that appeases all parties.
 It’s always better to come to the table with a number of ideas for resolution. Once all parties agree upon the best option, make sure to get a verbal agreement from each one so everyone is aligned and on the same page for moving forward. Conclude the meeting by having all participants formally apologize to one another and thank them all for their part in constructively resolving the issue.

5. Follow-up on Your Solution

Agreeing upon a solution is an important step, but it will have no effect if the parties involved don’t put it into practice. Be sure to follow up with them to ensure they are committing to the action items for resolve. If they are not, this will require another meeting to understand why. If they are, a follow up will help to gauge the effectiveness of said solution.
 If you see the the same issue resurfacing, take action immediately. It may be useful to revisit some of the alternate solutions you had previously presented.
 In some cases, when HR officers cannot resolve a conflict no matter how hard they try, they may have to consider asking for help from an expert like a lawyer or mediator. This would be particularly advisable if the conflict involves legal matters. Arbitrators are also resources that help when it comes to resolving recurring problems within the workplace. 

Final Thoughts

HR officers have a crucial role in the companies they work for. They manage the workplace experience for employees – beginning from the hiring process. They make sure that everyone is functioning at an optimum level and are responsible for resolving any employee-to-employee or manager-employee disputes.
 When conflicts do happen in the workplace, the HR team should work to resolve them as quickly as possible. Unresolved conflicts can fester and effect the company’s productivity, as well as the individual employee’s morale. Use these five steps to guide your conflict resolution efforts to prevent them from becoming serious and long-term issues.

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