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How to manage workplace conflict

How to manage workplace conflict

Sep 07 2016

In my role as HR Manager, obviously I've had to do a lot of conflict management. It can be something as simple as one member of staff said something to such and such and they didn't like their tone, or it could be something more serious such as a racist comment or slur. Most workplace conflict can be managed without having to go down a formal route, so here are my top tips for employees who are managing a conflict themselves and need a bit of a steer as to what to do next.

  1. Stay calm
    Much easier said than done, but you can achieve so much more if you're calm. How calm you're able to be depends on lots of variables, but if you do need to shout, scream or cry, go outside or to the toilets or wait until you're at home and then let rip at the blank walls. Try to stay calm and in control and it won't seem so bad. If you can't exchange pleasantries with the other person, simply nod in acknowledgement of what they have said and move away from them. As the saying goes, if you don't have something nice to say about someone, don't say anything.
  2. Write everything down
    This is wise in most situations. Write down what's happened, the situation from your perspective and if you think it might be serious then log times and dates of things happening and what's been said. Keep a record of events and save them so you remember where they are, ideally also so that no one else can access or edit them. You might never need it, but it's handy if you do.
  3. Try to get some mediation going on
    Mediation can be formal, but often it's just about you and the other person sitting down and talking. Have someone there to act as a buffer, your boss or a colleague and everyone should be given an opportunity to speak and air their grievances. Often, most conflicts can be resolved in this way and it's just about openly communicating. It's also good to get someone neutral to give their point of view, they may give you a fresh perspective.
  4. Apologise if you have to
    Sometimes at work, we have to do things we don't want to do. I have found myself having to apologise for things that simply weren't my fault, but there are times where you just need to suck it up, be the bigger person and apologise to make everyone's working life more bearable. If you can't face apologising, do a half apology, something like; "I'm sorry that you feel that way and that's how you took it, but that wasn't my intention."
  5. Don't be afraid to raise a grievance
    When all is said and done, there are times when you really do need to stand up for yourself and go down a more formal route. If someone has truly wronged you, if you're being treated badly or even unlawfully, please don't sit quietly and wait for it to stop. Take action and raise it with your manager, or HR. No one should have to go to work and feel bullied or victimised and if you don't take a stand, not only will it continue but even if you leave, they could do it to someone else.

If your business needs some HR support, don't forget to visit my business services page and get in touch to find out how I can help.