Managing conflict in the workplace is an inevitable part of your job as an HR pro. The good news is, not all conflict is bad, and it can even be productive to have people with different viewpoints speak their mind and come to some sort of consensus. There are things you can do as an HR pro, to ensure that this conflict ends in a somewhat meaningful way, and things don’t get blown out of proportion.
1. Have a plan, and stick to it.
Most employee handbooks have some sort of guidelines on how to handle conflicts in the workplace. If it does, review it and follow the instructions. If the guideline seem vague or outdated, be sure to do some research and revise them. If you don’t have any guidelines for conflict management, it’s time you wrote some up. This allows you to refer to something in writing and predetermined. Written guidelines also help keeps things civil, and unemotional. So when conflict does arise, refer to the manual! The more times you do this, the easier it will get.
2. Get involved early on.
As an HR pro, the unfortunate incidence of workplace conflict does fall into your lap. So, if you hear office murmurs of a dispute, get involved ASAP. Don’t wait for the conflict to sort itself out, because you risk letting it fester and blow up. Deal with it according to procedure, and you’ll likely save your office from a potentially much larger issue.
3. Keep conflicts private.
The more gossip and rumors that surround a conflict in the workplace, the more toxic it can become. So make it part of your guidelines, that all parties involved must never speak about a conflict or dispute, with anyone who’s not directly involved. That includes you as the HR pro, no spilling the beans to fellow managers, even if they’re curious. This avoids untrue rumors being spread, people taking sides, and a whole slue of other issues that can arise when people are speculating about issues that aren’t their own around the water cooler.
4. Address aggressive, or provocative behavior in employees before it becomes a conflict.
If you have an individual at your workplace who seems to act in a manner that’s either outwardly aggressive, or even just an insidious button-pusher, stop it in it’s tracks. The minute the behavior is spotted or reported, deal with it. Call the individual on it. It’s likely that they are either unaware of their behavior, or at least unaware of how it’s effecting other people. Often establishing the aggressor before any particular conflict has arisen, will help solve problems later on.
5. Don’t have private meetings.
As logical a it might seem to let each party state their case and blow off some steam separately, don’t do it. By meeting separately, you run the risk of letting your own bias’ effect your understanding of the situation. It puts you in the position of judge and jury, and potentially forces you to take sides. It’s more effective to call a meeting with everyone involved, and talk it out together.