There’s something about conflict that makes even the best of managers want to run away and hide under a rock. Unfortunately, as a manager you have to take control of any situation within your workplace, whether positive or negative. You are in charge of identifying the situation, intervening, and facilitating mediation.
I have, however, learned from experience that becoming too involved in a situation does more harm than good. If you spend too much time trying to figure out who is right and who is wrong you eventually find yourself unfairly biased towards one side or the other and, suddenly, you are no longer able to make a fair decision. Here are a few things you should NOT do when attempting to mediate a conflict.
Do not pretend the conflict does not exist. Most conflicts do not really ever go away by themselves. As a matter of fact, if it appears a conflict has resolved itself you should keep a careful eye on the participants, become one will likely explode later as those tense feelings fester beneath the surface. Suck it up and deal with the situation.
Do not allow each participant to corner you individually. Each person would prefer to have you believe his side of the story is more important or more accurate. Allowing each person to meet with you separately only fosters this need. Unless there is fear of physical altercation, meet with all participants together and encourage them to share their views in a constructive manner.
Do not let those in conflict spread their negativity throughout the entire office. Everyone working within the general vicinity of those in conflict is going to be impacted by the stress, anxiety, and disruption caused by the conflict. Don’t let anyone involved discuss the conflict with anyone else. Try to keep the incident as isolated as possible in order to ensure it does not begin to impact the functionality of others within the workplace.
Conflict is almost guaranteed in today’s workplace, but if handled carefully and effectively you can nip it in the bud and turn it into a constructive experience. Not sure you or your fellow managers have what it takes? Consider additional training on dealing with conflict so that you can approach each day confident you are able to handle whatever life throws your way!
Originally published: 5 November, 2008