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Monday, November 23, 2009

Resolving Workplace Conflict - 10 key steps to getting back on track

Conflict, unresolved, can have a detrimental impact on any business. It undermines relationships, negatively impacts on communications, suppresses innovation, creativity and collaboration and can seriously diminish performance.  The team can suffer, the product or service can suffer and your customer can suffer.  The smaller the business the bigger the impact is likely to be!  Therefore, it is important that you address conflict as soon as you become aware of it. 

Here are the 10 key steps you will need to undertake:

  1. Decide on a mediator (either you, someone else in the business or an experienced external mediator) whom the parties can trust and respect and set up a face-to-face meeting with the parties involved
  2. Set the ground rules - remember things like confidentiality, respecting each other, allowing each other speak without interuption and separating problems from people
  3. Be clear about the objective - usually not to establish blame or fault but to arrive at a solution which is mutually acceptable. This is about establishing a common goal
  4. Establish the facts - getting both to state the issues from their perspective. Listen first, talk second!
  5. Identify the real problem - use questions and probing to get to any underlying issues - often what presents as the problem is really only a symptom so dig deep!
  6. Generate solutions - look to both parties for potential solutions.  Depending on their position these might be quite opposing initially.  As mediator it is your job to get to a point where there is a mutually acceptable solution
  7. Overcome obstacles - often you will need to bring one or each party into a side meeting to get to real truths or to overcome some stumbling block to a solution.  Sometimes it is about helping them see "sense"! It also helps in understanding any deal breakers or "bottom line" positions
  8. Get committment - once a solution has been agreed seek commitment from both parties to an agreed course of action
  9. Set up support - ensure you put in place any structures necessary to support the outcome (often this is just a follow-up review meeting but could include training, coaching, counselling etc)
  10. Be clear about the what if - never leave the mediation session with establishing clearly what the next step is likely to be if parties fail to keep to their commitment
If you are a party to the conflict then resolution can be a little more challenging but is nonetheless achieveable.  For the most part these same rules will apply - the key is to focusing on issues not people, establishing common ground and negotiating a mutually acceptable agreement.  Always seek a win-win situation!

For more information or if you need help in resolving workplace conflict contact me at: jackie@consultingexcellence.ie

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