How to Properly Mediate an Office Dispute

Posted by on May 27, 2014 in Business Start Up Advice [ 0 Comments ]

How to Properly Mediate an Office DisputeMost of the time, your team is able to work through problems and move on from a bad situation, but disputes happen occasionally. Here’s how you can mediate fairly when two or more employees are starting to fight.

Step 1: Let Them Try to Solve the Problem

You are their manager, not their babysitter, and you shouldn’t have to deal with every he-said, she-said spat between co-workers. If one employee runs to you complaining about another’s behavior, ask them if they have already talked to their problem co-worker.

In a functioning office environment, employees need to go to each other and express how they feel and explain what bother’s them. If they know that step one is solving the problem themselves, you as a manager won’t have to put out as many fires. Tweet This Step

Related: The FCRA: Are You Really Compliant?

Step 2: Look at the Communication Between Employees

If a dispute has become so problematic that your employees came to you, there should be emails, chat conversations, and other written forms of communication related to the problem. Ask to see the past communication and be included in all further threads.

Reading written communication back and forth will show what is actually happening, and following future conversations will help you learn more. Remember, there are two sides to every story, so make sure you see both of them. Tweet This Step

Step 3: Meet with the Employees in Private

Call a meeting with the two or more employees that are having a dispute. Office gossip travels fast, so try to have it without drawing too much attention to the problem. In the meeting, ask each employee to explain what happened and then have them offer solutions.

By staying solution-based, you’re able to focus more on making interactions easier moving forward and avoid more arguments about who did what. List out everything that each employee wants from the other and brainstorm ways to achieve that.  Tweet This Step

Related: The Lost Art of Business Etiquette 

Step 4: Create an Accountability Plan

Take the solutions found above and create goals and deadlines around them. Employee A will do B by the end of C. Don’t leave the meeting until you have a plan for ways each employee can improve moving forward. Even if the problem is one-sided, you don’t want one employee to think he or she has been cornered.

By making the solutions concrete and treating them like assignments, you’ll be able to track their progress. Put the accountability plan in writing so you can refer to it in the future in their files if similar problems with the employees arise. Tweet This Step

Step 5: Follow up with Additional Meetings

The mediation doesn’t end after the meeting. Remember to stay copied on email communication and keep following the conversations between the employees. Follow up a few days or weeks later to review the solutions set forward and whether each party is following the plan they agreed to. Use the written plan to make sure each party is taking the agreed upon steps. Tweet This Step

Step 6: In Some Cases, Seek out Human Resources

If you’re unable to settle a dispute, it might be time to turn to the professionals. Your human resource department is trained to handle employee problems like the one you’re facing. Furthermore, involving Human Resources introduces an objective third party to the situation, and no employee will be able to accuse you of bias.

If the dispute involves illegal behavior or the employee fears for their job or safety, such as problems involving sexual harassment and abuse, you should alert the police. Tweet This Step

Related: The Three R’s of Small Business HR Management

While more established companies have precedents for employee problems and are able to turn to a situation that happened in the past, new start-ups often make up their own solutions as they see problems for the first time. Young owners of these start-ups would benefit from taking management and operations classes to expose themselves to new problem solving techniques and mediation tactics. No office is perfect, but with the right mediation strategy, yours can be relatively peaceful.

Author Bio: Annie Davis is a freelance business writer from Tampa, FL. Besides writing, she also enjoys discovering new ways to streamline business practices, shopping, photography, kayaking, and traveling. You can reach her on Google+

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