Whenever there is a conflict at work, many people choose not to act on resolving it, due to a variety of reasons. Maybe an employee feels there may be repercussions for speaking up about an issue, or they could be viewed as “difficult” or “a troublemaker”. They may fear the attraction of unwanted attention from their colleagues and management.
On the other end of the spectrum, management may not take complaints seriously due to pressure from “higher up” to wrap up a project by a deadline and reporting or mediating a conflict may derail those goals.
Management may also take a backseat approach as they may feel the complaint doesn’t warrant any action because “it can resolve itself” without their intervention.
The issue with these kinds of thoughts is that usually the conflicts do not resolve themselves and there are a host of problems that can spawn from letting things sit.
Employees can feel run down or depressed from a “lack of support” or feeling they can’t bring it up. The conflict can then eat away at their ability to produce a quality output, as it can distract them mentally or leave them feeling unappreciated and no longer enthusiastic to put forth an effort. And, employees can choose to leave suddenly, all because the dispute was not resolved professionally.
Companies are heavily impacted by choosing to do nothing, or not having situations handled in the time and manner deemed appropriate by those affected.
Not only can the company lose a valuable team member, but they can also be sued. It’s best for companies to facilitate dispute resolution professionally, and help make sure their employees know what to expect.
Here are 5 Ways HR Can Encourage Healthy Dispute Resolution in the Workplace.
First off, not every adult has healthy coping skills when it comes to conflict. Unfortunately, they can enter the workplace with an emotional immaturity that no rule can really help.
It is not the job of HR to take on that responsibility, but every employee should receive training on Dispute Resolution. Whether this is part of their onboarding training, or something done once a year for all employees, a training session should occur for all employees to have a basic checklist of things they can do before escalating to management or HR.
Among these should be an encouragement for them to not react immediately (unless they’re being harmed or are in imminent danger) and to choose the right pronouns and words when communicating their frustrations. They can even have practice conversations with other teammates and exercises to work through to have examples and a better understanding of the right way to handle disputes.
Set Expectations for employees.
What the employee is responsible for, and what management is responsible for should be laid out plainly for them to understand and know what to expect from each player in dispute resolution.
The last thing you need is an employee sitting back on the issue because they assumed that once they brought it up to their manager, it would just be taken care of with disciplinary action. They should also know the implications of getting management and HR involved so that they can determine whether or not an issue is big enough to escalate to that point.
This will hopefully get them to understand that they shouldn’t go to HR because someone accidentally took their sandwich out of the refrigerator.
Create an Environment of Trust.
Employees should absolutely know that they can trust management and HR if they are to bring up a dispute that they need assistance handling. They are more likely to speak to you on the matter if they know full discretion is used.
It is your job to create a safe space for employees, and that should be taken seriously at all times.
Even if you think the issue is unimportant, you never know what past issues this person may have had, and they shouldn’t feel dismissed if it’s important enough to talk to HR about.
Advertise your trust and follow through on being as professional as possible.
Know when to Step In.
If you catch wind of sexual harassment, verbal harrassment, physical assault or battery, you absolutely must step in to offer support for the issue.
This is not a situation that HR can afford to sit back on their heels with and observe from a distance. And this is something that an employee should not be prepared to handle alone, due to the volatility of the situation.
Oftentimes, managers may be great at what they do, but may not have the skills to help a team with dispute resolution.
It’s often not a quality that is considered when promotions are happening.
Managers should also receive in-depth dispute resolution training so they can contribute positively to the issue, and not make it worse. A daft or aloof remark from a manager can make an employee quickly regret bringing up such an issue and may lose faith in the process your company has established. They should know to take it seriously every time.
While employees should do their best at resolving issues, it’s good for them to know they have a team ready and able to assist should they need it.
Seasoned professionals can help employees work through those problems and foster a healthy environment for success.
© Human Resources Global