Disagreements are inevitable in any workplace, and the fact that they occur does not necessarily mean there is a deeper issue with your team. However, the way that you choose to resolve any conflicts can have a big impact in the workplace. So, how can you keep things running smoothly in your team?
1. Don’t Let It Simmer
If you have noticed some tension between team members, it’s best not to let this go unaddressed. Make sure that you have a clear procedure in place that allows people to come to you about any issues they may have – proactively scheduling regular one-on-one sessions with each team member can be a great way to do this.
2. Separate Facts and Feelings
When considering any conflict, it’s important to separate what actually happened – the facts – from the feelings that these actions have caused.
One veterinarian might complain that a vet tech doesn’t respect her and is being rude – those are feeling. Why does she feel this way? Because the tech always speaks to her in short sentences and rarely makes eye contact. Those are the facts.
It’s important to acknowledge the feelings involved in these situations – they are real, distressing, and ultimately the cause of the grievance. But when considering how to resolve the conflict, focus on the facts.
3. Separate Intent and Impact
Human communication is imperfect, and we often don’t manage to convey what we actually mean. For example, the tech from the previous example might be speaking in short sentences because the clinic is very busy and they are trying to be efficient (intent) but the result of this is that the vet feels she is being insulted (impact). The lack of eye contact might be because the tech is neurodiverse, rather than because they are disrespecting the vet.
When trying to resolve a dispute, we must consider the intent behind the impact in order to come to a solution.
4. Find a Mutual Solution
In conflict, both sides will usually have their own answer for what the “right” solution is – often based on the impact of hurt feelings. If we consider the facts and intent, we can often find that both parties were wanting similar things – mutual respect, better patient care, and improved workplace culture – but there was a communication breakdown in the process.
If we are responsible for mediating disputes then our role is to uncover what each party really wants, and then work to find a solution that is acceptable to both.