Types of Conflict and Professional Mediation Techniques to Create a Peaceful Work Environment

In any business, conflicts are inevitable. Disagreements between coworkers, or even managers and employees, may occur over projects, performance reviews, team dynamics, or company policies. You can’t avoid conflict in the workplace — but you can manage it effectively. A healthy work environment is one in which employees feel they can express themselves without fear of reprisal. In such an environment, conflicts don’t escalate but are resolved quickly and fairly. There are many kinds of conflicts in any organization — personal, logical, moral, and political among them — that require different strategies for resolution. Peaceful collaboration is an ideal state for everyone involved at work; however, it won’t happen automatically.

Identify and understand the type of conflict

Conflicts within the workplace can be categorized according to the relationships involved and the potential for damage. By identifying the type of conflict, you can tailor your mediation strategy appropriately. Let’s take a look at a few examples: 
  • Personal conflict – A coworker feels that another colleague is unprofessional or treats her unfairly. The root cause could be anything from an interpersonal dispute to a personality clash. 
  • Moral conflict – One employee has strong religious beliefs that clash with another employee’s views. A political or ideological dispute might arise, too. 
  • Logical conflict – This is the most common workplace conflict. Logical conflicts are caused by differing points of view, differing goals, or different priorities. 
  • Political conflict – Politics in the workplace can destroy morale, productivity, and efficiency. Political conflicts arise when two or more employees vie for power or influence. They may engage in backstabbing or “friendly fire” behind closed doors.

Set ground rules for mediation sessions

To calm the waters and keep a mediation session from becoming an argument, you may want to set ground rules at the outset. Start by having everyone involved commit to a non-confrontational approach. The mediator should ask everyone to be respectful — of everyone in the room — and to refrain from personal attacks. You may also want to set a time limit for each mediation session. You may want to keep mediation sessions to no more than 30 minutes, for example.

Help parties find common ground

If you’re mediating a dispute between coworkers, focus on the common interests of both parties. Ask questions that elicit positive responses from each person — questions that prompt each person to talk about what they value, what they hope to achieve, and what they have in common with their colleagues. There are various methods to help parties find common ground. First, you can use parallel thinking, which means to help both parties focus on the similarities between their situations. This can be done by having both parties write down their issues on separate pieces of paper, and then having them exchange papers. This will help them put themselves in the other person’s shoes and see the issue from a different perspective. Another method is to have both parties create a wins-and-losses chart, which means that the mediator should have both parties list their issues on separate pieces of paper, and then have them exchange papers. This will help both parties focus on the issues at hand and what they want out of the solution, while also helping them see what they have already gained from the situation.

Confront unproductive behavior during mediation

As you help parties find common ground, be sure to confront any unproductive behavior. If you notice that one or both parties are becoming defensive, aggressive, or unwilling to compromise, you may want to stop and ask everyone to take a break. You might also want to remind both parties that mediation isn’t a race. No matter how passionately they feel about a situation, they have to remain open to each other’s perspectives and concerns.

Conclusion

Conflict is inevitable in the workplace. The challenge is to resolve it quickly and effectively. Mediation is a peaceful and constructive approach to resolving conflict. It helps groups work together to find and implement solutions to problems and build relationships based on trust and collaboration. Ready to create a more peaceful workplace? Then follow the tips above, and be sure to make mediation part of your strategy for resolving workplace conflicts.
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