You strive every day to maintain a positive environment for all your employees. But even among the most cohesive teams, occasional conflict is inevitable. A tight deadline looms, an unexpected glitch in a project occurs, or someone is emotionally charged, possibly by something not even related to their job. Whatever the circumstances, conflict will rear its ugly head, often without warning.

How do you effectively curb, control and calm a conflict-driven situation? The following dos and don’ts are based on tips from Jeffrey Krovis, author of Improvisational Negotiation, and experts from The HR Specialist and HR Specialist: Employment Law.

Five Dos

  1. Know what to look for. Watch for certain behaviors that surface when conflict is brewing or has already boiled over. Such reactions may include silence, tears, nervous laughter, anger or apologies.
  2. Know when to step in. As long as it’s safe, give disputing parties a chance to resolve an issue on their own. Take action at the point where things get out of hand or the problem is affecting their work or disrupting the work of others.
  3. Let employees speak. When people are upset, they need to get their story out. This is a basic principle of mediation. Even if it initially spikes the conflict level even higher, you need to get through it in order to reach resolution.
  4. Find the root cause. Ask yourself – and others, “What is the true motivating factor here? What is really keeping everyone involved from finding common ground?” By encouraging a rational, thoughtful approach with input from both sides, they will come to realize that they aren’t that far apart after all.
  5. Focus on the issue. Conflict runs hand in hand with people blaming each other. It’s important to keep everyone focused on the issue at hand, rather than on striking out at each other in the heat of the moment.

Four Don’ts

  1. Don’t profess to have all the answers. Show humility in dealing with conflict. Admit that you don’t have all the answers. Instead, listen to and accept ideas and suggestions from everyone. This is an important step in bringing the entire group back together towards an acceptable solution.
  2. There’s no place for sarcasm in conflict resolution. You may think a sarcastic barb could lighten a tense situation, but there’s no place for it in conflict resolution. The recipient may think you’re not taking things seriously or worse, treating them like an imbecile.
  3. Never be a bully. Yes, this sounds cold. But if you’re not careful, it can happen. For instance, it’s human nature to be tougher on more submissive employees, because you know you’ll get less resistance. Be careful not to pick on anyone. Stay calm and fair.
  4. Keep politics out of it. Your job is to find a solution without alienating either side. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by the politics of one person or group over the other. Keep everyone focused on resolving the conflict and not being sidetracked by personal or political issues.

Turn to TRC Professional Solutions for more proven tactics to build your business and develop your team, including strategies for effective communications and conflict resolution. Contact us today to learn more.

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