Do you often feel like you need to walk on eggshells around fighting subordinates? Do arguments disrupt your employees’ workdays? Do you sometimes feel like you need to side with one employee or the other to truly resolve the conflict?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, here are four steps that will help you stay impartial while mediating a conflict between your employees:
- Determine their limits. It can be difficult to get both employees to explain the root problem, so you’ll have to talk with each one personally. Find out what pushed them over the limit. Are they annoyed that their coworker takes two hours for lunch? Does one coworker engage the other in too much “mindless chit-chat?” Remember that no question is too small to ask during this stage. What seems like a silly question could lead to a productive answer.
- Open the discussion. Fostering an open discussion between the disagreeing employees is the best way to clear the air, despite how awkward it can be. Sit in a neutral space, such as a conference room, and ask each person to state her professional goals and expectations. Keep the dialogue focused around work with words like “objective,” “target” and “expectations.”
- Find healing. After both sides have stated their workplace goals and expectations, invite one subordinate to analyze how her behavior impedes the other’s ability to realize her goals. Then, ask the other one to do the same. Once they’re aware of how their actions harm the other’s career goals, they’ll be more likely to shape up.
- Remember the human touch. Your employees need you to be objective and fair regarding their conflict. Instead of taking sides, provide a human touch and understand that sometimes the simplest resolution is the best — an explanation and an apology. Encourage your workers to make amends and move on.
Managing people — and their conflicts — can be one of the most challenging parts of your job as a supervisor. But you can help move past conflicts with a little mediation.
After a merger between two rivals caused deep political tensions in the executive suite, CSC Consulting partners Tom D’Aquanni and Gary Taylor were asked to resolve the situation.
They used these steps in their mediation sessions:
- Resolve The Past. You’ll never find resolution in the future if you can’t agree on what happened. Sit both parties down in a neutral space and have them explain their version of the problem. Ask for detailed responses to questions like, “Why do you feel let down?” If you’re one of the dissatisfied parties, do most of the listening instead of the talking. Then, have both sides acknowledge the problem, comment on it and apologize for their part in it.
- Outline The Future. Ask each individual to articulate her version of an ideal future relationship. What does it look like? How will the two parties communicate? Make sure both sides agree.
- Implement The Plan. Put their agreement into action with measurable communication systems. Encourage them to use email to record their conversations. Then, meet with them periodically to evaluate the emails, check progress and set new goals as needed.
Don’t let a furious caller stop you from doing the very best job you can. The next time you’re on the receiving end of an angry customer’s rant, try these tips to calm him down and resolve the issue effectively, from Gemma Gibson’s article titled How Best To Deal With Angry Customers.
- Be straightforward. Explain your company’s policies and processes clearly.
- Be flexible. You don’t always have to follow policies strictly no matter what. Each situation is different and may require you to bend “the rules” a little to satisfy your customer. Look at the situation from the customer’s point of view, says Gibson. Also, discuss these rule-bending options with your manager regularly so you’ll be prepared and know what to do when an angry caller strikes.
- Demonstrate action. Show your customer that you are going to solve his problem by using language like, “I can,” “Definitely,” and “I’m going to take care of this,” Gibson suggests.
- Give your customer choices. If there are different ways to resolve the issue, give your customer all of the options to choose from. This allows him to feel like he has some control over his problem.
- Offer a timeline. Once you and the customer choose a course of action, describe the steps you will take to correct the problem. This will help your customer understand the time it will take to resolve the issue, as well as all of the work involved.
- Provide updates. Call your customer to let him know how you’re progressing with his problem. For example, if you had to reorder an item, give the customer a call and tell him that you’ve placed the order. Tell him when he can expect to receive the order. He’ll feel more comfortable if you let him know how things are going instead of leaving him in the dark.
Another thing to keep in mind is don’t rely on your manager to fix the problem. Even if you need to get a manager involved, remember that you still have an obligation to see the problem through until the end, says Gibson.
Sometimes customers respond angrily because they feel alienated and threatened by you and your power. Turn your language into “we-speak” to make them feel like you’re on their side.When you talk to your customers as though you are on the same team, you’ll be on your way to fostering better customer relationships. Your customers will feel more comfortable when they perceive that you’re there working alongside them and not trying to win their business just to boost your own quotas.
Here are three practical strategies for exercising inclusive language:
- Employ collective pronouns to create an atmosphere of teamwork. For example, say: “We’re going to get to the bottom of this issue today.”
- Avoid refusing customers with statements like: “I can’t provide this service for you.” Instead, phrase the thought as: “Let’s see if we can find a way to help you solve your dilemma.”
- Stay away from judgmental comments. For example, eliminate responses such as: “Why is this so difficult to understand?” and “Why wouldn’t you want to sign up for this great deal and save $50? Don’t you want to save money?”