Disagreements can happen anywhere two or more people interact. Respectful differences of opinion can be constructive and can lead to innovative ideas that come from different perspectives. There are times when a dispute continues to grow causing disruption in the workplace for not only those in conflict but everyone around. As the situation snowballs, productivity is affected and so is morale. Having a workplace dispute resolution process in place is a good way to be prepared if conflict starts to undermine the peace in your organization. What should be included in a workplace dispute resolution process?

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Promote Open Communication

A peaceful workplace is a place where it’s safe for people to express their opinions and share their ideas. Staff members should be encouraged to participate in healthy discussions as long as they treat each other with respect at all times. When open communication is promoted in a workplace, coworkers have the best chance of working out differences among themselves rather than involving management every time there’s a disagreement.

Conflict can happen for many reasons and miscommunication is one of the top causes. Tension may grow quickly if people misinterpret what a coworker says or does. Encouraging open communication may help to clear up or prevent misunderstandings.

Involve Supervisors if Needed

If staff members feel that they’re unable to work through their differences, one or both of them should alert the supervisor that there is a problem that requires management to get involved. In some cases, those in conflict continue to have a hard time getting along but try not to involve management. If this happens, a supervisor may initiate a meeting for the parties in conflict to get together and discuss their differences while the manager acts as a mediator.

The first thing that needs to be done is to clarify what’s causing the conflict. The supervisor listens to both sides and encourages each of those in conflict to express their side of the dispute. This needs to be done without getting emotional, raising their voice or interrupting the other person when they’re talking. They should be expected to listen to each other, and the supervisor may instruct them to repeat back to each other what they’ve heard to be sure each has actually listened to the other. With the supervisor’s help, coworkers in conflict may be able to brainstorm solutions that would be acceptable to both of them.

Involve Human Resources if Needed

If either of the parties in conflict feels this discussion hasn’t led to satisfactory results, they have the right to involve human resources. One reason for taking this step may be that one of the people feels that the supervisor didn’t handle the discussion fairly or wasn’t impartial. Management may also make the decision to take this step, particularly with staff members who are belligerent or uncooperative. Employees should feel free to reach out to human resources if there’s a conflict between an employee and a supervisor.

Human resources can meet with those in conflict while being impartial and can provide guidance for moving forward and getting past the conflict. It may be necessary for HR to remind employees of the conduct they’re expected to use at work and what consequences they may face if they don’t act in a professional manner.

A workplace dispute resolution process may also include the option to involve an outside company to act as a mediator while working through conflict. When a third party acts as a mediator, there is less likely to be a feeling that the mediator took sides. Specialists in conflict resolution can facilitate discussions and can help employees to communicate better and rebuild mutual trust.

To find out more about expert conflict resolution services, contact Pollack Peacebuilding Systems.


Valerie Dansereau

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