Council Post: Nine Effective Ways To Mediate Workplace Conflict

Disagreements and conflicts are inevitable in the workplace. As a leader, it’s your job to mediate any issues between workers so your company culture remains positive and productive. However, this is often easier said than done. It takes a truly empathetic and effective leader to listen to each side and help both parties come to a mutually-beneficial solution.

To help you, we asked Young Entrepreneur Council members about the most effective ways to confront conflict in the workplace. Here’s what they recommend.

1. Have A Framework In Place

The key is having a framework in place that people can see and follow so the emotion can be taken out of it. We use a conflict clearing method that we call “Get and Stay in Sync.” Essentially it walks people through a process that begins with the facts, then moves to the feelings and the stories we tell (this is where conflict happens most often) and culminates with the expression of the desired outcome. There is a process to follow that is very explicit and has the impact of eliminating drama quickly, or as we say, “Squash Small Elephants Early.” – Russell Benaroya, Stride Services

2. Use The Imago Technique

At my company, we use the Imago technique for conflict resolution. Imago is a therapeutic technique used to de-escalate situations using three steps: reflection, validation and empathy. You start with a sender and a receiver. Reflection, or mirroring, involves the receiver repeating the statement back to the sender so that the sender feels truly heard in that moment. The second step is validation, making statements like, “it’s completely understandable that you would feel that way,” or “anyone in this situation would feel that way.” The third step is empathy, in which the receiver makes a statement like: “I can imagine that would feel scary, hurtful, annoying, etc.” These three steps work to build trust and confidence in workplace relationships by allowing people to feel truly heard and understood. – Rachel Beider, PRESS Modern Massage

3. Be Direct

We have a constant battle with the relationship between account managers and service partners (sales versus implementation). I took the top performers on both sides and we sat together to have authentic, direct feedback. What can you, sales, do better? What can you, services, do better? What can we, the company, do better for you all? The open and direct conversation forced the finger to point inward to look at their own contribution to the issues, instead of just pointing outward at everyone else being at fault. – Marjorie Adams, Fourlane

4. Define What ‘Winning’ Looks Like For Both Parties

Focus on what “winning” looks like for both parties. Sometimes, employees are at odds when they feel an action or decision by another person negatively impacts their performance. As such, they’re more likely to be inclined to sabotage any efforts that seem to undermine their own potential. Instead, reframe the situation where everyone can win by collaborating, generating more results together and sharing in the credit. It’s easy to forget that when you partner with team members, you can accomplish more, even if the idea, initiative or plan wasn’t something you conceived in the first place. – Firas Kittaneh, Zoma Mattress

5. Encourage An Open Feedback Culture

We have a few different methods of handling conflict. Before I share those, I will add that we have a very open feedback culture as it’s something that is built right into the tool we’ve created. We’re not afraid to share helpful, directed feedback with each other as we lead with good intent and know that we’re all moving in the same direction. The first method we use is our one-on-one meetings. Our one-on-ones are an opportunity to exchange feedback between managers and direct reports and address any conflicts or disagreements. Beyond the one-on-one, we have skip-level meetings where our individual contributors meet with a manager’s manager to discuss any issues and get a temperature check. Finally, we use our own feedback tool often to gather feedback from the entire team. – Erin Blaskie, Fellow.app

6. Intervene Before The Situation Escalates Further

The key to resolving disagreements and conflicts in the workplace is to diffuse the situations before they escalate. For example, the tension between two employees can slowly bubble up and result in a big blowout that disrupts everyone’s day and damages your company culture. It’s not easy to notice these telling nuances, especially if you work from a remote office. I think that spending time in video conferences, communicating through your company chat channel (we use Slack) and having one-on-one quarterly meetings with your team can help you identify and resolve these situations before they turn into something severe. – John Brackett, Smash Balloon LLC

7. Listen To Both Sides

When resolving any conflict, the most important thing is to listen to both sides. Keeping your ears open is essential to be a leader. You need to listen to your customers, clients, employees, vendors and others to conduct business. When it comes to an issue in the workplace, you need to hear everyone out equally to better understand the root of the problem so you can solve it. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

8. Maintain Professionalism

Conflicts in the workplace can affect everyone and can also bring moral and productivity to a halt. Whenever possible, try to address the situation privately among those involved. If this issue is large-scale and not against someone specifically, a company-wide email or meeting might be the best option. Ultimately, no matter what the situation is, try to address it in a professional manner. – Zac Johnson, Blogger

9. Respect And Disagree

Not everyone will agree with you or vice versa. Our viewpoints will never be the same, but this doesn’t mean one party is right or wrong. If we all thought the same, the world would suck. We are who we are because of our unique experiences. We change those when we are learning and processing new information. Just because they disagree now doesn’t mean they won’t agree later! – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

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