The conflict between employees may arise at any given time – but how you choose to respond to it is important.

As an HR manager, many of your staff members look to you for direction. If there is conflict, you should be there to treat the situation fairly. If an employee has had a traumatic experience, then employees would like to see you as compassionate.

If a recent incident has wormed its way into your office between colleagues, knowing exactly how to handle the situation is vital. Here are a few ways how you can do so.

Listen attentively

Make the person talking feel that you are giving them your undivided attention may allow them to open up even more to you. Try not to interrupt while they are talking unless you would like them to repeat themselves to get a better understanding or elaborate on what has just been said. To ensure that you correctly understand them and there are no loopholes, rephrase and repeat what they’ve just said in your own words. Go along the lines of “I want to ensure that I fully understand what you are saying. You feel (this way) because (that colleague) has offended you?

Allow everyone the chance to speak

Make sure you get all sides of the story to make a more informed decision. If meeting with the involved parties individually before having a meeting together will help, do so. Ask them about their experiences and how they feel about the situation. This will make everyone involved feel like they have had their “turn” to speak and feel heard.

Keep an open mind

After hosting individual meetings, when everyone is in the room together it’s vital that you have an open mind. Carefully listen to all sides of the story and be empathetic. Does this harm the company in any way and was this an act of good faith or negligence? Show them that you care about what all the parties involved have to say and ask them questions such as what they think the next steps should be so that they can take responsibility in the matter as well. Ensure that all problem employees are being dealt with effectively and if needed referred for EAP counselling if need be or business coaching for a 1:1 session.

Remember your main goal

You are called in to resolve the conflict between colleagues – try to remember this whenever there is a digression. Understand that you are simply the mediator and are there to solve their problem and not to create even bigger problems or cause them to misunderstand you, leading to an unresolved issue. Guide the conversation and if you feel that tension is slowly rising, and they are digressing, be sure to drive the conversation back to the real problem so that it can get resolved. If you sense that one or all of the parties are struggling with anger and are short-tempered, enrol these employees in a soft skills training course in a conflict management training on how to deal with conflict and anger proactively. This course which is aimed at anyone who wishes to manage their anger in a more positive and effective way in the workplace develops assertiveness and teaches conflict management techniques.

There is no perfect company. As an HR manager, it is important to understand that there are good days and then there are bad days at work. But what is most important is that when those bad days arise, you can handle the problems effectively as this will determine how employees trust you to deal with conflict in the future.

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