Working relationships are not always perfect, just like all relationships at times individuals can get into a state of conflict. These situations can range from minor disagreements to their workplace version of all out war. On many occasions I have been called in to work with colleagues where their relationship has broken down to a point where communication is highly limited and at times non-existent.
Most workplace relationships can mend in my experience the resolution is about developing an ability to have good, respectful working relationships – friendship is a nice bonus but lets be honest we are not always friends with everyone that we work with so its not always essential to get to the point of social friendship, what we are looking for is a good professional relationship.
Recently I was called in to work on a conflict of this nature and I received some lovely feedback from a HR Business Partner in Global Multinational Pharmaceutical Company which highlighted the importance of having a facilitator who understands the workplace environment. “I recently engaged Louisa to do some facilitation to get a working relationship back on track. From the minute I contacted her (including her super-efficient booking system!), she was responsive, pragmatic and immediately understood the dynamics involved. Everything is in a really good place following her skilled and experienced mediation and Louisa was a pleasure to deal with throughout.!”
All of us need to get help with how to handle relationships at work sometimes the skill, in my experience, with conflict is to get the right help at the right time. Mostly staff can figure things out with some self-reflection and perhaps talking it through with a trusted mentor at work. However, when a dispute gets to the point where the individuals themselves can’t find a solution alone then bring in a trusted 3rd party (a mediator) is beneficial.
Workplace mediation is just that – a skilled independent 3rd party who can navigate the conversation with the parties involved in conflict directly. Its’s not always necessary to use the language of mediation as it can scare off some parties so I often use the term facilitated conversation or just ‘having a chat’, however the basic principles of mediation work:
- It’s a confidential process;
- Self-determination is essential, that is the parties in conflict are assisted in finding their own solution and thus will be more inclined to follow through on it;
- Its voluntary for all parties; and
- It requires an impartial qualified 3rd party to assist (mediator).
Mediation works around 80% of the time, and the earlier you get in as a mediator the easier it is to assist in the resolution of conflict. As a HR professional I know only too well what happens when interpersonal conflicts cannot be resolved, frequently it results in allegations of bullying, harassment and / or grievances which require lengthy investigations and potential disciplinaries.
Next time you are managing a situation where there is an interpersonal dispute then consider using mediation to help resolve it.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an initial chat about mediation in practice.