In the wake of our recent election I thought it might be worth sharing my experience over the last 20 years of serving as a mediator and corporate conflict resolution specialist. Perhaps there is a macro lesson for the country?
When resolving conflict here are my process steps:
- I first meet with each person separately and remind them to stop with the personal attacks and name calling. It will not help to resolve the conflict. Focus on the issue at hand and use specific examples of what’s not working and what change you need to see. Keep the language neutral and objective. You can criticize behaviors but not the person.
- Control your emotions. An angry person or a person in tears is not someone who has improved their odds of completing a successful conflict resolution session. To be clear, people have every right to feel the way they do but it won’t help them in resolving conflict. The more emotion you show in a conflict resolution session the more likely it is that you will trigger the other person’s emotions and then its right back to square one.
- The final step is to get both parties together to lay out their complaints using the neutral, specific, objective language with clear behavioral objectives. The three of us then discuss whether or not the changes are doable. If both parties feel they can make the change then we go back to HR with our written solution signed by both parties. However, many times both parties agree that the changes will be too hard and we look for a different solution (maybe one goes to a different department.)
That’s it. Once the emotions are stripped away you are left with practical solutions and choices.
It is worth noting that many, many times when people sit down in these situations they don’t leave the session agreeing with the other person. But they realize the name calling and emotional outbursts are going to make it harder to resolve the conflict.
Lastly, after 20 years of listening to people and their stories you quickly realize that judging other people is an exercise in moral relativity. There is no absolute right answer. People do the best they can and often times their efforts come up woefully short and even cause significant damage, but when viewed in the context of their life you understand why they behave the way they do and are left humbled by the experience. I am not sure I could have done any better in their shoes.