Tips on How to Prevent and Resolve Workplace Conflicts
Fights and tensions between colleagues can be just as disruptive to operations as lost data or damaged equipment. It causes fissures between people or even teams that should be working together to reach individual and collective goals. If left unresolved, conflicts can lead to early resignations, loss of talent, and lawsuits.
There’s no way to ensure that workplace conflicts will never take place. It comes with the territory of having adults with different personalities, interests, motivations, and preferences work closely together for nine or so hours per day. Arguments will happen, but supervisors and HR officers can prevent them from escalating into full-scale chaos through mediation and arbitration.
Alternative Dispute Resolutions: Mediation and Arbitration
Mediation and arbitration are alternative dispute resolution methods that are faster and cheaper than litigation or court cases. These procedures can be done internally, but companies with little experience in either can work with attorney-neutrals offering mediation and arbitration services.
Mediation is an informal process facilitated by a neutral third-party whose role is to help the conflicting parties reconcile. The mediator helps the parties iron out their conflict and identify possible solutions that are agreeable to all. This is the best place and time for all involved parties to air out their grievances and express their thoughts and feelings about the disagreement.
The resolutions in mediation are noted in a settlement agreement, but this document and its terms are non-binding and voluntary. The mediator doesn’t impose the settlement, and the involved parties are not legally obligated to fulfil any promises made in mediation. If the conflict continues, the parties may choose to progress to an arbitration.
An arbitration is facilitated by an arbitrator, a third-party chosen by both parties. The arbitrator can be anyone, but it is preferable to choose a professional who’s experienced in corporate arbitration and is well-versed in corporate and labor laws. This is because unlike mediation, which aims to help the disputing parties find a middle ground, arbitration aims to determine liability and calculate payable damages. If both parties agree to make the arbitration binding, they will need to hire an arbiter.
Best Practices for Avoiding Conflict in the Workplace
Just because disagreements are bound to happen and opposing personalities will inevitably clash, it doesn’t mean that companies can do nothing to prevent conflict in the workplace. Below are some of the best practices that can help HR departments and office administrators maintain a positive work atmosphere.
- Promote open communication -So many disputes arise from miscommunication. These incidents (especially those about work) are avoidable and can be easily resolved if open communication is part of the company’s culture.
- Recognize personality clashes – Sometimes there are people who simply cannot get along well with each other because of their opposing personalities, beliefs, preferences, and so forth. While it’s unsustainable to keep creating scenarios where these people won’t have to meet, there’s value in knowing where potential sources of conflicts are. It also helps to make the people aware of their situation and express the company’s expectation that the employees will conduct themselves as responsible adults and professionals.
- Avoid scenarios that can cause conflict- Savvy office management is crucial to maintaining peace in the workplace. Here’s an example: knowing that women are more sensitive to cold than men, office managers can assign desks directly in front of AC vents to male employees. This can prevent petty fights about whether it’s too hot or too cold inside the office.
- Avoid emotional confrontations- When tensions and emotions are running high, advise everyone to retreat for a moment and to talk only when everyone has calmed down. Forcing a discussion when people are angry might lead to shouting matches and further deteriorate professional relationships.
- Find the right timing to intervene in employee disputes – Sometimes conflicts in the workplace are personal and are none of the administration’s business. If, however, they’re starting to affect work quality and professional relationships and are tarnishing the company culture, the HR department should know it’s time to step in. Allowing an aggrieved employee to spread discord can be damaging to a team’s morale and teamwork.
Arbitration or mediation can solve workplace disputes and give employees formal processes they can trust when conflicts escalate. However, it’s better to prevent or at least minimize the chances for disputes to emerge in the workplace. Observing these best practices for avoiding conflict can help ensure harmony among employees.