Conflict In The Workplace And The Key To Setting It Right

Conflict In The Workplace And The Key To Setting It Right

A mediator is a ‘Conflict Engagement Practitioner’, a skilled, experienced and accredited mediator. They are external to the organisation and independent to the issues and understand how to constructively engage with conflict in any business.

Their role is ‘not about making nice – it is about coming to grips with what is wrong and ‘setting it right.’[1]

Facing the resolution head on

How often do your managers believe they are helping to resolve conflict but are actually avoiding real engagement because they are unconsciously driven by their own internal need to ‘make things nice’?

When this happens, the staff and their manager experience the tensions associated with conflict. No one is happy, and the situation is never ‘nice’. But everyone involved mistakenly believes something is being done to address and resolve the conflict. In reality, everyone is in a holding pattern. They wait and they keep playing nice,until the next event triggers higher levels of emotional reaction. No one really understands why the staff member is acting so irrationally and emotionally. The event itself was not a ‘big deal’. So the staff member becomes the problem. Past unresolved incidents are brushed back into the past and seen as having little significance, shifting the focus onto the staff member and highlighting them as the ‘new’ source of tension and conflict. No one seems quite sure about how to manage this staff member, how to talk with them and be honest. They may just become emotional again. It’s safer to just ‘play nice’ and hope they will follow suit and ‘play nice’ too.

But ‘playing nice’ never wins. It only leads to more problems such as increased absences, decreased performance, stress leave, and a worker’s compensation claim. It can also have negative impacts on team dynamics, resulting in requests from multiple team members to change rosters or teams and maybe one or more resignations.

Smart managers equal smart outcomes

Managers are appointed because they have higher levels of understanding when it comes to operational and technical matters and are capable of leading a team. But managers are not conflict resolution specialists just as a conflict resolution specialist is not a business industry technical expert. 

In every business, though, managers need to be smart and able to use their skill set where they can. A smart manager will know when specialist help needs to be brought in and will seek early appointment of a conflict resolution specialist.

A skilled, experienced and accredited mediator who is a ‘Conflict Engagement Practitioner’ can:

  • Create a psychologically safe space for constructive discussion;
  • Support those experiencing the conflict to engage with the conflict and each other; and
  • Depending on the mediator’s skill set, influence affected parties to engage with their own intrapersonal conflict and the underlying or hidden triggers.

It is only through genuine engagement with conflict that the ‘real’ issues can be exposed and discussed. From there, sustainable resolution options can be offered and mutually beneficial outcomes can be found and agreed upon.

How long will you wait until you invite a ‘Conflict Engagement Practitioner’ into your workplace? The earlier you do, the greater the benefits to individuals (including you), the team and the business.

[1] Constructive Conflict and Strategic Disruption by Susanne Terry and Bernard Mayer, June 2020

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About the Author

Catherine Gillespie brings a wealth of skill to her clients. With particular expertise in teaching communication and workplace conflict resolution skills, Catherine has made a marked difference to the organisations she has worked with. She empowers teams and managers to adopt constructive styles that support harmony, productivity and progress in the workplace.