In the post “How To Stop Passive-Aggressive Behavior In The Workplace” I shared how important it is and how to create a culture where teammates first attempt to resolve differences with each other before requesting leadership assistance.
The most productive teams involve the supervisor only as a last resort after teammates were unable to resolve their differences themselves.
If you inherited a team with a different culture, read the post above, change what is expected of teammates to resolve differences, and then prepare yourself to mediate, should it come to that.
Mediation is appropriate when
- teammates unsuccessfully attempted to resolve differences
- one person has a dominant personality, and the other has a passive personality
- other teammates are getting involved and taking sides
- a policy was violated
The first key to a successful mediation is to meet with each party separately before meeting together. Ask each participant the same questions to get both sides of the story and clarify your understanding of the problem and the barriers to resolving it.
After meeting with each employee, prepare mentally by considering
- what you believe is the issue
- their personalities and how each attempts to control conversations
- any history between them, or similar issue and a different teammate
- your ideas on how to resolve the issue
Have the participants agree to these ground rules before starting.
- Stick to the issue – no discussing non-relevant matters
- You will interrupt and redirect the conversation when necessary
- Respect each other, even if they disagree
- No interrupting, raising their voice, swearing, or personal attacks
- They need to reach an agreement and commit to it before leaving
Explain the back and forth process, managed by you so that they will understand.
- Each person gets a chance to talk while the other listens
- The listener paraphrases what they heard, and if correct, gets an opportunity to respond
- Repeat this process until you agree on a solution
Questions to ask each participant are
- What’s the issue from your perspective?
- What did you just hear them say?
- What is your response to that statement?
- What additional information would you like to add?
- How do you suggest we resolve this?
Make sure both parties are clear on what each will do following the mediation. Schedule a follow-up meeting if necessary.
Manage this critical leadership function well and you will not only help resolve this disagreement but teach participants how to handle future disagreements and increase cooperation in the workplace.