Conflict Resolution at Work For Dummies
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The days and weeks following an employee-conflict mediation meeting provide ample opportunities both to reinforce positive behaviors in employees and to address relapse and coach through conflict. Look for chances to encourage the positive changes and intercede when negative behaviors arise. You can assist staff in a number of ways as they try on new working relationships.

Here are four of the most common strategies:

  • Acknowledging progress: Start any coaching discussion by simply acknowledging an individual’s hard work. Employees can easily slip back into old, negative patterns of behavior; one way to prevent this is to show that you’ve noticed his efforts and encourage him to keep up the good work. Be sure to cite specific examples so he’s clear on what behaviors he should continue.

  • Helping an employee process the outcome: An employee may have a difficult time adjusting and need an opportunity to talk about his concerns and vent his emotions. In this instance, listen more than problem-solve, focusing your role more on support than on action. If he starts to become overwhelmed or confused and needs some direction, help him identify and work out what he really wants.

  • Raising the employee’s personal awareness: Another reason for one-on-one coaching is to help bring about awareness. Sometimes raising awareness is as simple as bringing an issue to the attention of a socially awkward or oblivious employee, and sometimes it’s a more complicated, ongoing process.

    Show sensitivity and tact when approaching these situations because you’re essentially holding up a mirror to a behavior or attitude that the person doesn’t really want to address. Approach him with genuine curiosity when trying to understand why he chooses the behaviors he does and what his intended outcomes are.

  • Preparing everyone for future conversations: If serious conflicts are still simmering and an additional mediation or conflict conversation is needed, meet with all the participants prior to the mediation to help prepare them for the conversation. Much like a private caucus, use this time to help the individuals identify what’s important to them, consider solutions that they’d like to propose at the next meeting, and help them rehearse how they may word those proposals. Act as their sounding board and help them create a game plan for the next meeting.

When you’re in a coaching role, your goal is to work one on one to help each person see his own behavior and find his own answers. You’re not there to jump in, make a decision, and move on. That approach will only stifle the conflict resolution skills each person gained during the mediation. Instead, ask a lot of questions to draw out an employee’s take on things and listen for areas that he needs help improving. Be available to support your employees through this transition, and provide resources as necessary.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Vivian Scott is a Certified Mediator in private practice and a retired Microsoft marketing manager. She is a member of the Washington Mediation Association and volunteers as a mediator at the Dispute Resolution Center of Snohomish & Island Counties.

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