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How to mediate difficult discussions between employees

Wondering how to manage difficult conversations in the workplace? Perfect your peace-making skills with our five mediation tips…

Disagreements in an office are inevitable, and, on most occasions, they play a vital role in creating a healthy working environment. However, when a conflict negatively impacts business, you may have to step in. Follow our tips to ensure your peacemaking efforts really make a difference.

Only step in when necessary
Before starting mediation, it’s important to ask if intervention is necessary. Is the disagreement personal? Does it impact business? If the answer is no, perhaps it’s best to step back and allow the situation to come to a natural conclusion. If serious misconduct is involved, formal discipline would be more suitable. If business is affected, however, it’s time for you to step in. Ensure that both parties are keen to resolve the issue, and remember this is a voluntary process.

Listen to understand
To mediate successfully, you must appreciate the position of others. Allowing someone to have their say alleviates tension and could address the problem at the heart of the discussion – for example, that one colleague feels ignored or overlooked. Aside from listening attentively, look to paraphrase for clarity and encourage your colleague to elaborate on what they’re saying. Demonstrate that you understand and empathise; remember, this isn’t the same as agreeing.

Tackle the problem, not the people
In heated moments, it’s easy to start pointing the blame. Statements such as “Why do you always…” or “You never…” might be common. By separating the problem from the person, blame is effectively removed, leaving you to deal with the problem at hand as a team. From this point you can look forward and decide how best to resolve the situation.

Explore multiple solutions
There is more than one side to every story, so you can be sure that there’s more than one solution to your problem. If your colleagues are on board with resolving their issues, they should have no problem in doing their part for the cause. Ask both parties to come up with a plan and explain that the solution ideally lies with them.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Although it’s vital for an effective mediator to remain impartial, the process may take an emotional toll. Seeking support is incredibly common, however, it’s important to do this with someone outside of work to maintain impartiality. If, perhaps, you’ve found the task too great, remember there are professionals who specialise in tackling conflict in the office and that you always have options to build a better workplace in a healthy way.


Images courtesy of Press Association



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