Most employers will acknowledge that occasional conflict in the workplace is typical. In fact, conflict can even be constructive when employees respectfully discuss their differing opinions.
However, there are times when employees cannot resolve conflicts amongst themselves, and it is necessary for management to step in and help alleviate what could be a serious workplace issue.
Whatever the underlying reason may be – poor work performance, personality clashes, or dissatisfaction with a job – it is imperative for management to approach the situation with understanding and neutrality.
Before any dialogue occurs, it is critical for managers to determine the exact nature of the issue and prepare for both the worst and best possible outcome in advance of the conversation.
Following are some tips for managing a successful intervention:
Make it a scheduled meeting.
Serious discussions should never be impromptu because it may give the impression that the conversation is not important to the manager. Also, be sure to set aside plenty of time for the meeting, so neither party feels rushed or under additional pressure.
Carefully introduce the conversation.
It should be clear from the beginning why the conversation is taking place. An example includes: “I understand you are having difficulty with X, and I want to work with you to find a solution.” The tone should always be non-accusatory and the message should indicate that a resolution is always the end goal.
Remain focused and communicate clearly.
Oftentimes when an individual has to convey negative news, but feels uncomfortable about doing so, he or she will deviate from the topic and lose sight of the issue at hand. Remain focused on resolving the conflict rather than giving in to a change of conversation to ease an awkward situation.
There are two sides to every situation, so it is essential to allow those involved to openly express views and feelings, even if one disagrees. Managers should not take sides; rather find a solution that is as mutually beneficial as possible.
The employee receiving negative news may respond with anger or tears. It is important to remain calm and not respond in the same manner. Unchecked emotions can escalate an already difficult conversation.
End with a clear resolution and next steps.
There is no point in having a conversation that does not lead to resolution. Be sure that the parties involved understand the key issues, steps needed to resolve the issues, and management’s expectations. Planning a follow-up meeting may be useful in some instances.
While no one enjoys having difficult conversations with employees, it is necessary to resolve conflicts and move forward for the sake of office morale and productivity. By clearly defining the issue, preparing in advance for the conversation and articulating expectations, these conversations can lead to a satisfying outcome for everyone.