Managers at all levels do their best to avoid conflict with or between their employees. In an ideal environment, there is open communication, training, set expectations, and a free exchange of ideas. Unfortunately, not every situation is ideal, thus the need for a good conflict resolution plan.
There are many ways to resolve conflict within your work environment: surrendering, running away, overpowering your opponent with violence, filing a lawsuit, etc. The movement toward Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), sometimes referred to simply as conflict resolution, grew out of the belief that there are better options than using violence or going to court. Today, the terms ADR and conflict resolution are used somewhat interchangeably and refer to a wide range of processes that encourage nonviolent dispute resolution outside of the traditional court system.
Here are a few ideas to consider when developing practices and processes through which conflict can be resolved within your team or organization:
Peer to Peer
Sit with each employee separately, behind closed doors, and listen to each side objectively. Take copious notes so that each person’s viewpoints are remembered. Once you have both sides of the story, bring both employees in and have them tell the story again, encouraging them to use phrases such as “I felt (bad, hurt, angry, etc) when (situation) happened.” The more the employees use feelings that point to how they felt, the easier the conflict will be to resolve because the other side won’t have a reason to get defensive if they don’t feel that the other is being accusatory.
Remember to refer to the individual conversations you had with each employee. If you believe one or the other is not telling it the way they did when they were alone with you, remind them of what they said and try to redirect the conversation. The key is resolution, which means that once the conflict is resolved, there should be no returning to this situation again. A good reminder of this for each employee is very important as well.
If you are unable to resolve the conflict on your own with the two employees, enlist the help of your HR Manager or Director. Their job is to ensure there is harmony in the work environment, and they will be objective in their approach to the situation. Since they are also an objective resource available, they may be your best method to effective conflict resolution between your employees.
Employee to Supervisor
If the conflict is between an employee and a supervisor, it is best to immediately get HR involved. Again, their job is to objectively resolve situations so that justice is done and peace is restored within the organization. They will likely follow a similar process of having each individual share their “side” of the story; however, they will also likely be quicker to come to resolution because they are not emotionally involved in the conflict.
Sometimes it is helpful to have the employee write out their own versions of the conflict, and then have them read each other’s version (with HR supervision). This may help them see the other’s point of view and recognize where they were at fault.
Keep in mind that no one truly wants conflict. An increasing number of companies are striving toward creating conditions within the workplace that enable people to resolve their problems quickly and without outside intervention. These employee dispute resolution systems channel employee conflict in constructive directions and encourage early resolution.
The policies are integrated into the corporate culture and use a variety of approaches, including some of the above mentioned specific ideas, as well as employee hot lines, peer review panels, mediation, and arbitration to resolve disputes.