How to mediate a Staff Dispute.

Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

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In a dispute between staff members, attitudes tend to get in the way of resolving the issue. People base their actions on perceptions and ego, rather than the facts of the case or the issues at hand.

Different behaviourial styles will also influence the tone, pace and nature of the dispute, with Amiables and Analyticals tending to avoid and back away from the dispute. This action leads the dominant styles (Drivers and Expressives) to believe either that they are right, or that the other party is “spinelss” and “push-overs”.

Here are some hints to deal with staff disputes as a manager.

1. Intervene before it is too late. You need a reason to get involved! If you allow the conflict to get out of hand it will disrupt the atmosphere and productivity in the office, but you don’t want to be seen as a meddling Manager or a nosy-parker. State your concerns to both parties, either separately or together, and indicate that you want to meet with both to establish a better working relationship.

2. Prepare both parties for the mediation process. Explain the process to both members and tell them hoe the session will be conducted. Emphasise your role – which is not to judge right or wrong. You will also not be telling them how to resolve their differences, and neither will you be taking sides! Your role is merely as a catalyst and facilitator to help the parties generate answers for themselves. Both parties need to be comfortable with whatever solution they come up with.

3. Get issues out into the open. Allow both parties to “get it off their chest”. There are various ways to do this:
• Have each person explain the dispute from his/her own angle without interruption. You then summarise the facts once each person is finished.
• Have both parties complete a questionnaire along the following lines:
• What I like about your behaviour and want you to continue
• What I don’t like about your behaviour and would like you to change
• This information is then exchanged one item at a time so that each person understands the other’s point of view. You dictate when each party responds.

4. Identify the issues. Your objectivity resulting from your indirect involvement puts you in a good position to see the conflict as a difference of issues rather than a difference of personalities. Only once issues have been identified, will the parties be able to see past each other as the “cause” of the conflict.

5. Generate solutions. Resist the temptation to put forward your own solutions. This would appear to be meddling. Rather guide the discussion towards finding intrinsic solutions to the conflict. This results in greater motivation from both parties to make the solution work. Challenge both to consider what they would need from the future relationship rather than harp on the past.

6. Reach agreement.

7. Follow-up on the agreement.

8. Remember to…
• Build the discussion around questions rather than accusations.
• Tone down strong language when discussions get heated and to repeat statements when they have used strong language.
• Don’t speak on behalf of others.
• This process can take considerable time.
• Avoid win-lose conclusions.

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