The task of resolving employee disputes often falls to HR. Human Capital talks to a conflict-resolution expert about mistakes to avoid when resolving workplace confrontations.
“You often need to have that difficult conversation, but you can do it in a way that doesn’t offend people or cause even more conflict,” said Schibeci, author of How to get out of the Rut Race and founder of Phil Schibeci Seminars.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it, he added; here are his top three HR no-no’s when trying to effectively navigate conflict in the workplace:
HR no-no #1: Acting without the facts
Getting to the facts is crucial. Your job is to find out:
· Exactly what was said: words, tone, language?
· In what content was it said?
· Why was one employee upset or offended about what another employee said or did?
“Be like a detective by being as objective as possible to get to the bottom of what is really going on,” Schibeci said.
“You need to cut through the innuendo and reserve any judgement, which can weed it’s way in when emotions get high.”
HR no-no #2: Taking the situation at face value
Generally speaking, it’s not this incident that is the issue; in most situations, it’s simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“Usually by the time it comes to a head, there’s a lot of history,” Schibeci confirmed.
Although the issue at hand may be much bigger than the ‘final straw’ incident, it’s important to focus on the details of that situation in order to keep conversations on track towards a resolution.
HR no-no #3: Failing to actually listen
By the time an employee conflict comes to your attention, the “emotional temperature may be up”, Schibeci said.
“Let your employees know that you understand, ‘Okay, so this was the last straw’, and then as HR, you need to listen to what they say next,” he explained.
“The aim is to remove all the judgement and misunderstandings by being very specific, with statements such as, ‘Fred has an issue because the other day, when you said XYZ? It made him feel angry, upset or offended – and the reason he felt that way was because of this’.”
Next, you listen – keep listening until they’ve said what they need to say – then bring it back on track by talking about you would like them to do. “Suggest how you’d like them to handle it in the future, and get their input, so they don’t feel they’re being lectured to,” he added.