How to Mediate and Resolve Conflict
These are the steps you'll want to take to help employees resolve conflicts in your workplace.
- Meet with the antagonists together. Let each briefly summarize their point of view, without comment or interruption by the other party. This should be a short discussion so that all parties are clear about the disagreement and conflicting views. Intervene if either employee attacks the other employee. This is not acceptable.
- Ask each participant to describe specific actions they’d like to see the other party take that would resolve the differences. Three or four suggestions work well. An example is, “I’d like Mary to send the report to me by Thursday at 1 p.m. so I can complete my assignment by my due date of Friday at noon.” A second example is, “I would like to have responsibility for all of the business development and follow-up with that client. The way the work is divided now causes Tom and I to never know what the other person is doing.”
- Sometimes, as in the second example above, you, as the supervisor, must own some of the responsibility for helping the employees resolve their conflict. Always ask, “What about the work situation is causing these staff members to fail?”
- If the situation needs further exploration, use a process I’ve adapted from Stephen Covey in which you ask each participant to additionally identify what the other employee can do more of, less of, stop and start.
- All participants discuss and commit to making the changes necessary to resolve the conflict. Commit to noticing that the other person has made a change, no matter how small. Commit to treating each other with dignity and respect. It is okay to have reasonable disagreements over issues and plans; it is never okay to have personality conflicts that affect the workplace.
- Let the antagonists know that you will not choose sides. It is impossible for a person external to the conflict to know the truth of the matter. You expect the individuals to resolve the conflicts proactively as adults. If they are unwilling to do so, you will be forced to take disciplinary action that can lead to dismissal for both parties.
- Finally, assure both parties that you have every faith in their ability to resolve their differences and get on with their successful contributions within your shared organization. Set a time to review progress.
Mediating a conflict is challenging, but as a manager or supervisor, the role of mediator comes with your territory. Your willingness to appropriately intervene sets the stage for your own success. You craft a work environment that enables the success of the people who work there. I believe you can learn to do it. Conflict mediation is an example of “practice makes perfect.”
Interested in what NOT to do to resolve conflict? Check here.