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How to manage disputes and conflict

Disputes and conflict in the workplace can arise for any number of reasons. Such incidents can prove extremely unsettling for all parties involved and may result in a fall off in production and a drop in staff morale.
As a human resources professional you will, more than likely, be tasked with interpreting, assessing and bringing about a resolution to workplace conflicts.
Such disputes take on many different shapes and forms. They may erupt suddenly, or simmer away unnoticed for some time.
It’s important for any human resources professional approaching a dispute within the work environment to ensure that the issues are dealt with in an intelligent and sensitive manner.

Some issues most commonly associated with disputes and conflicts arising in the workplace include:

  • People feel they’re being placed under undue pressure
  • People feel they’re not being adequately compensated
  • Unsatisfactory communications from line managers and above
  • Lack of clarity as to what’s expected from individuals
  • People maintaining different goals and values
  • People feeling misunderstood in their job
  • Unrealistic scrimping on essential tools, services, etc.
  • External factors - including substance abuse or domestic issues
Regardless of the root of the conflict, it’s vital that the resolution process is followed by a human resources professional who remains emotionally detached while truly listening to all sides and displaying empathy to all viewpoints.
It’s helpful if the problem is approached early on and that that steps towards resolution are conducted in a way that might assist the company in future instances.

Things to consider when dealing with conflict in the workplace:

  • Focus on the problem not the person
  • Never force an individual into a defensive situation
  • Never make sweeping generalisations or rash judgements
  • Show an equal level of respect for all sides
  • Be professional and forthright
  • Never ignore the issue
  • Listen to and thoroughly understand what is being said
  • Ensure healthy staff / management boundaries are established early on to avoid conflict escalation
  • Show empathy and deal with individuals as people with lives
  • Be aware of, and be able to cite, potential disciplinary consequences if conflict continues
Speak to Michael Page Human Resources to find out more about the career advice we’re able to offer in your human resources job search.