HR’s Role in Conflict Resolution

Building a corporate environment where employees feel that their feedback is welcome is critical to organizational growth.  When team members feel that they can openly communicate with their managers group-think is avoided and opinions generate ideas and productivity.  This isn’t to say every opinion has to be acted upon but welcoming diverse ideas will certainly push a company forward.

However, when many ideas are generated, so too is conflict and disagreement.  Letting individuals express their feelings and then come to a common ground will satisfy employee needs and help drive ways to push the company forward.  Clearly not all conflict arises out of idea generation and can be built up for various other reasons.  Just a few examples that cause conflict include clashing personalities, bad decisions, poor management and employees not pulling their weight.  So how can HR help an organization resolve conflict?

Below we have provided some helpful tips* to support the overall organization with conflict resolution when it can’t be solved on its own:

  • Acknowledge – Whether or not you agree with whether the conflict that exists is actually a conflict, acknowledging that a situation means something to your employees will provide much needed empathy to their concerns.  Communication is key to resolution.
  • Individual(s) Expression – Whatever the concern is, providing a supportive forum to let those involved with the problem share their feelings is necessary before addressing the issue.
  • Define Problem – Meet with all involved parties for fact finding to learn how the problem started and the negative impact the situation has had on them.
  • Needs vs. Solutions – Don’t jump into proposing solutions just yet, the situation should be mitigated before its resolved to ensure you address any underlying issues.  Conflict resolution is not about who’s right or wrong, its about generating mutual options so that everyone winds up as happy as possible.
  • Common Ground – Bring all parties together and agree on the problem and proposed changes so that a potential win/win option can be identified. A little give and take from both sides may be needed.
  • Solutions – Provide options and alternatives that address the conflict and make sure ALL involved parties agree on them.  Some compromise may be needed but getting clear acceptance from everyone involved in the problem.
  • Follow-up – Remember to check-in after a brief time to make sure that all parties are still satisfied with the solution and that the resolution has been abided by.
  • Back-up Plan – If the conflict remains unresolved you may have to take additional action to resolve the problem. Some suggestions are performance appraisals and coaching sessions.
*UC Berkeley Human Resources, Resolving Conflict Situations

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