Workplace conflict is not a novel phenomenon; where one person’s ideas or thoughts may collide with the other in the course of working together. These can arise out of any issue, personal or professional. However, if the conflict is big enough to tamper and disrupt a smooth flow of work, it is important to step in and look for ways to handle the situation.
Conflict handling is not just guiding by sitting on the sidelines. Instead, it calls for getting one’s hands dirty and being involved in the entire process. Human resource professionals are entrusted with the huge responsibility of ensuring that conflicts between two parties are resolved with utmost transparency.Human resource professionals are entrusted with the huge responsibility of ensuring that conflicts between two parties are resolved with utmost transparency. Click To Tweet
This can have a huge impact on the employees’ perception of the company as a whole. However, handling conflicts does not come easy and requires strategic thinking on the part of HR. Here are a few ways that can prove helpful when looking to solve workplace conflicts from the HR perspective.
16 Ways HR Can Solve Workplace Conflicts
Mediating conflict resolution between two parties and working out an amicable solution can be pretty challenging. However, human resource professionals can rely on the steps listed below to take cues from the next time they find themselves in a conflict.
1. Go With a Clean Slate:
It is essential to have an open mind and a clean slate before walking in to discuss with the two parties involved. Each party may have their individual versions of the conflict in their minds. Ensure you hear them out without any prejudices or bias. Put them in the front and ask them what they feel should be done. Sympathise with them, offer resolutions in case you have any. Remember, both the parties should get a clear message that you care for their situation and are invested in working out a solution that works out for the greater good of everyone involved.
2. Be an Advocate:
There is a reason why employees often find themselves sitting in front of the HR team because they expect them to work out a solution somehow. While this may seem like a good quick-fix, it does not present a long-term solution. The HR department needs to go beyond this by thinking and acting like an advocate for these concerns. They need to adopt a counsellor mindset and approach these conversations more like a staunch promoter of real solutions, which can help avoid conflicts altogether in the first place.
3. Stay Neutral:
HR professionals need to adopt an unbiased attitude before taking on the conflict handling process. They need to keep judgements, assumptions, and preconceived notions aside to ask genuine and authentic questions. This will lead them to the right answers and unlock the real reasons behind the conflict at hand.
HR professionals need to adopt an unbiased attitude before taking on the conflict handling process.
4. Keep a Goal Ahead:
Every conflict resolution should start and end with a goal to reach a safe position that works for everyone. Since HR professionals step in as mediators, they need to ensure that everybody realises this common goal. This will help conflicting parties divert their efforts towards reaching the shared goal rather than safeguarding their individual positions and fuelling the conflict further.
5. Bring in Human Perspective:
Since human resources and their personal interests are at stake here, HR professionals cannot discount the importance of bringing a humane perspective. Figure out ways to understand the psyche of conflicting parties, what led them here, their conflict position, what they need out of this, etc. Answering these questions will form a solid base for HR to unravel the thinking of both parties and arrive at a quick decision.
6. Give Importance to Everyone:
There may be more than two employees involved in a single conflict. This can make matters even more confusing and problematic if not handled correctly. HR managers need to give equal importance to every employee in the conflict and hear them out individually. Ask questions and get to know their personal take on the issue at hand. Once that is done, it makes sense to arrange a combined meeting that includes every party involved. It will set the stage to be more open to opinions and viewpoints since everybody feels essential, seen and heard.
7. Encourage Openness:
It is not just important to arrange a meeting and gather everyone at a single location to reach a solution. HR professionals need to emphasise the importance of open and honest communication. If the employees fail to open up and list out the actual reasons behind the conflict, the whole premise of conflict resolution stays untouched. Therefore, it is necessary to encourage an open-floor discussion to reach the bottom line.
8. Stay Genuine:
While it may seem unlikely, the real intentions of the mediator resolving the conflict is quite palpable by the parties involved. HR managers need to genuinely care about the people and the right outcome. They have to listen, comprehend, identify core problems and figure out the needs, all in a genuine manner so that the whole process remains authentic and inspires the trust of all the stake owners.
9. Involve Everyone:
Any conflict per se cannot be resolved without the on-ground involvement of everyone. Even though HR managers need to act as mediators, they also need to enlist the help and support of employees involved in the conflict. Hold everyone accountable for the resolution of the conflict. In fact, by doing so, the HRs are in a way helping the employees reach the solution themselves. Everybody adopts a problem-solving approach and tries to help each other in the process.
10. Stay Respectful:
The inherent nature of a conflict can force people to lose out on the basics of professionalism, which is always maintaining a respectful and genuine stance towards people and situations. HR managers have to understand that the employees who are engaged in conflict may already be going through a hard time with their work. Keeping this in mind, it is vital to deliver the right message appropriately so that the employees’ feel respected. This will do nothing but reinforce a positive outcome for everyone.
11. Look at All Sides:
The end goal in a conflict situation is to arrive at a solution at the earliest, so that the parties involved can work at their productive best. One way to achieve this is to help everyone have a 360-degree view of the entire situation. Since HR managers have a bird’s eye view of everyone’s position, there is a possibility that they can help everyone else alter their perspective and view the situation from a different angle. Also, aim to tackle the small concerns first since they can be handled easily. This will provide the foundation to solve big or more contentious issues later on in the course of the discussion.
Since HR managers have a bird’s eye view of everyone’s position, there is a possibility that they can help everyone else alter their perspective and view the situation from a different angle.
12. Handle One Issue at a Time:
Most people tend to give in to their emotions during the process of conflict resolution. As a result, they can find themselves entangled in the web of defensiveness or aggression. For example, the conflict may start from two parties having an opposite stance on how a process needs to be carried out, which may escalate to more serious personal accusations such as tone of voice, behaviour, crossed boundaries, etc. In such a scenario, it is the role of HR managers to guide them to tackle one issue at a time and then move on to the next one. This will avoid unwanted confusion and help normalise things in a much better manner.
13. Identify Major Points:
Once all the parties have put forth their points of discussion, bring out a summary of all the areas of agreements and disagreements. Let the people have a good look at the summary to realise exactly where they stand at that point in time, conflict-wise. Doing this gives them an exact outlook on the points on which they are on the same page and put their concentrated efforts on only solving issues that are pending agreement. In fact, this can also nudge the people in conflicting positions to develop empathy for each other and become more open to the idea of exploring a win-win situation for both.
14. Arrive at a Solution:
After a good discussion on agreements and disagreements, steer the conversations towards a solution that will help end the conflict. First, develop a plan to work on each conflict. Then, shift the focus on the future by setting up meetings where discussions around the plan’s implementation can be worked out.
Following up on a conflict resolution is as important as the first discussion. Unfortunately, many HR managers tend to drop this critical step once the issues in the conflict have been resolved between the two parties. Often, the issue tends to escalate, or bad feelings may linger between the two parties. This is why HR managers need to stay involved right through the end and look for ways to provide additional support if required. Nevertheless, follow-up is a must and should not be avoided at any cost.
16. Encourage Acceptance:
In the end, encourage both parties to look at healthy conflict as a reference instead of conflicts that can hinder growth and productivity at work. Simply accepting each other as people with unique viewpoints can go a long way in resolving conflicts.
To conclude, workplace conflicts are unavoidable. It is the job of HR professionals to recognise the conflict, understand the nature of the conflict and work out a just and swift resolution to emerge as a leader. Avoiding to do so can multiply problems manifold and take the shape of much serious trouble at the workplace.