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HR How-to: Three tips for handling workplace conflict

When you think about conflict in the workplace, you probably think about that time Janice in accounting screamed at Joan in finance for not re-filling the coffee pot. But conflict in the workplace can actually be a good thing – failure to agree upon a work project, for example, can lead to a discussion that could actually improve the end product – and can thus drive your company forward. 
Where an HR representative can step in is in appropriately managing this conflict so that it does become productive. In a presentation at the SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Expo, Dr. Morgan Hembree, a leadership consultant for Integrated Leadership Systems, shared exactly how to remove the negative connotations of conflict in the workplace and use it to generate a positive outcome.

Hembree began her presentation by stating that the most effective office mediators are the people who have a good sense of self- and social-awareness and who are thus capable of managing themselves in either context. With this in mind, Hembree provided the following three steps for effectively managing conflict in the workplace:


 1. Describe the behavior: When speaking to someone involved in the conflict, you must come to the conversation with specific examples of what that individual was doing that needs to be addressed. Keep the conversation focused on these exact behaviors and not critique the character of the person you are speaking with. In doing so, you “allow for the spotlight to shine on something actionable and doesn’t isolate the person, which will result in [them] getting defensive and shutting down the conversation.”

2. Focus on the emotional impact of the behavior: During your conversation, shift the focus to how the individuals’ behavior is making others feel. This is something that can’t be argued with as “no one change the way the other feels or reacts, but they can change what is leading to such feelings.” Once the individual hears explicitly that their actions are angering or frustrating others, they may be more willing to share why they behave the way they do – a piece of information that can give you, the HR rep, the insight needed to suggest a meaningful solution.

3. Offer solutions and opportunities: With the person involved in the confrontation now aware of their behavior and how it makes others feel, Hembree now recommends that you provide a summary of the discussion and offer up a solution to prevent future conflicts. Next, ask the individual how they feel about the proposed solution and ensure that it is a fix that the individual feels confident in. In doing this, you engage the individual in modifying their own behavior and make the conversation seem less like a disciplinary action and more of a meeting of the minds.

 Is this something that you could implement in your office? Let us know in the comments.

 

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