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The Manager as Mediator – How to deal with interpersonal conflict in the workplace

25 April 2012 683 views No Comment

by Hendrien van Zyl

The workplace is a productive breeding ground for interpersonal conflict. Conflict can, however, assist individuals and organisations in implementing improvements in the workplace and even have a positive impact on productivity. But, if it goes unresolved, it could have a very negative impact resulting in unhappiness, depression, aggression, emotional and physical withdrawal or even resignations.
On an organisational level the impact is seen in low morale, low productivity, wasted time and resources, lost customers and in some cases and litigation. Many people try to avoid conflict, but conflict should be viewed as a normal and natural part of your work life, stimulating creativity. In this article we will look at a process through which a Manager or Team Leader can mediate conflict between two members of his/her team at work.
Are you harbouring feelings of resentment?
Are you perhaps familiar with feelings/thoughts similar to:
• “Let them fight it out themselves. It’s not my responsibility to sort it out for them.”
• “I have better things to do with my time than to babysit these immature people!”
• “Well, if you ignore the conflict for long enough it eventually goes away?”
• “There will always be conflict in a workplace. Just learn to live with it.”
• “Everyone should fight their own battles, and that one is not mine.” and/or
• “I don’t like conflict. I’m no good at it in any case.”
If you share some of the sentiments expressed in the abovementioned quotations, you might want to re-assess the importance of your role as mediator as the Manager of your team. You are responsible to recognise and address those issues that may result in conflict in your team and the organisation.
Identify the source of conflict
To manage conflict, you need to establish the origin, which could be from various sources, including:
1. Team members are not clear about their responsibilities. This results in a situation where they disagree about decisions made or actions taken in unclear areas. Susan says John should have done the particular job, but John says it is not on his job description!
2. Competition for limited resources. Every organisation has limited resources available and every Manager and employee is competing for the same pool of limited resources like Time, Money, Space, Materials, Supplies and Equipment. This may also include time with the busy Manager, a greater portion of the budget, office space, the new laptop allocated to the department – the list is almost endless.
3. A clash of ….
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Hendrien Van Zyl is learning solutions consultant at Optima training. For more information visit www.optima.mu.
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