Handling Inter-Office Disputes: When Should Management Get Involved?

Handling Inter-Office Disputes: When Should Management Get Involved?

No matter what industry you work in, one thing is certain: conflict in the workplace in unavoidable.  The fact is you are bringing together employees with different backgrounds and different work styles. There are bound to be disagreements from time to time and the reality is that conflict resolution can either propel or disrupt the performance of the team.  Therefore it is important for managers to address any disputes head on before healthy conflict turns into disorganized chaos. Here are a few strategies for dealing with inter-office conflict and how to decide when HR needs to get involved.

Listen to Both Sides

Any conflict resolution begins with listening.  When an issue arises, you need to address the issue with all parties involved.  Speak to each person separately to gain their perspective on the situation. Gather information and try to leave emotions out of it, sticking to facts alone.

Bring All Parties Together

Now that you have a better understanding of the situation, you need to bring all of the involved parties together.  Give each person a chance to share their version of the issue. Oftentimes, this provides insight and elicits facts that the other party may not have been aware of.  This is an important step because managers often act as the middle man and diffuse the situation without actually dealing with the root of the problem. Brining both parties together forces them to listen to each other and actually work together toward a solution.

Find Common Ground

There is almost always something that both parties can agree on and this is an important starting point.  This will become the foundation for which the dispute is settled.

Encourage Compromise

In order to move forward both parties are going to have to give a little.  Not only do the employees have to continue working together, but their performance will be hindered by a negative relationship. For these reasons, it is important that all involved parties agree to some sort of compromise.  

Accept Responsibility for Their Actions

In some instances there might be one employee who felt offended or disrespected by another employee.  In this situation, it is important to take action immediately and address those negative feelings. The accused party needs to accept responsibility for their actions and make amends for the betterment of their professional working relationship.  

While it is always encouraged to resolve conflicts and disputes in a positive manner, there are certainly times when the issue needs to be addressed by HR.  Here are a few examples of when HR needs to get involved.

  • If an employee is threatening to quit over the problem. (It can be costly to replace employees)
  • If the disagreement has become personal and there is a lack of respect between employees.
  • If the conflict is affecting the morale or success of the team.
  • If the situation is serious enough that it could result in legal action (i.e.- harassment, physical abuse, discrimination)