Conflict is never a pleasant thing to experience at work. This is especially the case when it concerns your manager. If you’re an employee having a conflict with your manager, or a manager having a conflict with an employee, here are a few mediation tips to get to a conflict resolution:
Ask for time to review the situation
Oftentimes we say what we don’t mean in the heat of the moment. By taking time to review the conflict, you can get a better grasp on how you truly feel and can make a plan to communicate that effectively. Take some time for yourself if necessary, but try not to let it fester—you’ll only fuel the anger and hurt until you talk about it, which will likely end in an explosion from both parties. Make sure that you understand both sides of the argument before jumping into an argument yourself, or you could end up making things worse instead of better.
Seek to understand the root of the problem.
Is it about work tasks? Is it about policies? Is it about whose opinions are heard first? Once you know what the issue is about, you can address it from there. Is there a misunderstanding about how a task should be done? Are one or both parties feeling unheard in their ideas? Do they feel that they don’t have autonomy over their own project? Once you know what’s going on, you can take steps to fix it; otherwise, your attempts to make things right are likely to just lead back around to where the conflict started.
Listen patiently and with an open mind.
Even if you’re still upset, stay calm and patient. You are the voice of reason. Listen patiently, do not interrupt; let each person talk until they are finished. If you get heated in the discussion, the other party will do the same. Treat the other party how you would like to be treated.
If someone is being unreasonable, don’t debate with them or try to convince them that they’re wrong. Instead, ask questions and try to find out what their point of view is about this issue. If you can learn about their opinions, feelings, and concerns, you’ll be able to have a better understanding of why they feel this way about something. This will help you know how best to solve this problem that has been brought up.
Don’t judge or make excuses for bad behavior.
Do not judge or make excuses for bad behavior. If someone behaved poorly, make it known that their behavior was hurtful and explain how it affected you without making excuses for them or judging them too harshly. This allows you to express yourself without hurting someone’s feelings or encouraging negative behavior even more.
Don’t try to solve all problems at once.
One of the most common mistakes people make when they try to deal with multiple conflicts is that they end up trying to solve everything at once so that they can be done with the situation. They might say something like, “OK, let’s talk about both of these situations and get them worked out!” That’s great in theory, but—especially if there have been many conflicts up until this point—it can lead you down the rabbit hole into more issues that are related to or stem from the original problem. You’ll end up dealing with a lot of little pieces of something instead of working on the real core issue, whatever it may be. It can also cause some resentment for one person or another because they feel like you’re dragging things out.
Know when to seek outside assistance.
If you can’t solve the problem between yourselves, don’t be afraid to seek outside assistance. A mediator—someone who isn’t involved in the conflict—can help both parties communicate more clearly, understand each other’s perspectives better and identify options for problem-solving that might not have been available before. Having an objective third party present can help parties resolve their issues faster and with less friction than they could on their own. Mediators aren’t only useful when there’s already bad blood between two people; they can also be helpful if there’s a relationship that needs mending after some time has passed since an incident that strained relationships or left hurt feelings unresolved.
Many times, a conflict between a manager and employee has less to do with the actual issue and more to do with the way that it’s being handled. By working together to explore all of the possible solutions, you can find one that works for everyone. Patience, courtesy, and a good dose of humor go a long way towards helping everyone feel heard.